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Lucky escape for WA farmer in firing line of killer gunman

By Aaron Bunch

September 10, 2023 — 3.54pm

A farmer had a lucky escape when a swastika-clad gunman shot at his ute while fleeing a West Australian town after killing a workmate.

Rob Linto says he spotted Lachlan Bowles, who was armed and on foot, about two hours after the 25-year-old killed Terry Czernowski in the Wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin on Thursday.

“I’m just dawdling along, not even in top gear in the ute on this gravel road and I see a bloke there,” he told The West Australian newspaper on Friday.

“I didn’t think much of it but then I saw him stop ... he had a gun pointed at me as I’m coming towards him.

“So as I saw the gun, I thought I’ve got to give it to her. So I just put the foot down but obviously, as I went past, he’s spun around and lined me up and had a shot.”

Linto said the bullet went through a spare tyre and into the top of the ute’s cab above his head.

Lachlan Bowles (top right) shot dead Terry Czernowski (bottom right) at Moynes Grain Silos in Kellerberrin on Thursday before turning the gun on himself as police attempted to negotiate.

Lachlan Bowles (top right) shot dead Terry Czernowski (bottom right) at Moynes Grain Silos in Kellerberrin on Thursday before turning the gun on himself as police attempted to negotiate.Credit: Peppiatt/Facebook

The incident happened amid a major police manhunt for Bowles, who was wearing camouflage clothing and a swastika armband, in the hours after he killed Czernowski at a grain silo manufacturing plant about 8.40am.

Residents in Kellerberrin and surrounding districts were ordered to stay indoors as he fled the site and started travelling overland, on foot, through rural properties.

Officers from WA Police’s elite tactical response group caught up with Bowles 20 kilometres north of the town about 2pm.

Police negotiators tried to convince him to surrender but he refused and turned his gun on himself.

He died at the scene, about 200 kilometres east of Perth.

Shire of Kellerberrin chief executive Raymond Griffiths said Bowles and his alleged victim were both locals and the community of about 950 people was devastated by the events.

“Kellerberrin is a tight-knit community ... We are all in shock,” he said.

“Our focus in the coming days will be providing any support the families that have been impacted might need.”

Griffiths thanked the police force for its “quick response” to the incident and asked that “the privacy of the victim’s family and our community is respected as much as possible at this time”.

Regional WA Police Commander Rod Wilde said the incident ended with a tragic outcome, as he informed media the manhunt was over and Bowles had been fatally injured.

His words were echoed by local police who responded to the shooting.

“Kellerberrin Police wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Terry Czernowski and Lachlan Bowles after the tragic set of circumstances that took place in Kellerberrin yesterday,” the station said in a tweet on Friday.

“Our thoughts are with you during this incredibly difficult time.”

Opposition spokesman for police, Peter Collier, said the community was in mourning.

“My sympathies go out to the victim and to his family,” he said.

“I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a father, or a son, or a brother, or a friend, no circumstances.”

Collier said the deaths could have been avoided as he criticised the Cook government for failing to reform the state’s gun laws as it had promised.

Crisis support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.