Lucky escape for farmer in firing line of killer gunman

A farmer had a lucky escape when a camouflage-clad gunman with a swastika armband 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."

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

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

Residents in Kellerberrin and surrounding districts were ordered to stay indoors as the gunman 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 20km 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 200km east of Perth.

WA Police Minister Paul Papalia said it was a confronting and tragic incident as he expressed his sympathies to those impacted by the shooting.

"I'd also like to extend my thoughts to the first responders, particularly the police who confronted this incident in such a professional fashion," he said.

"What happened yesterday would have been an incredibly confronting task for our specialist police.

"There's nothing quite like fronting up to someone who's prepared to shoot at you."

Mr Papalia declined to answer questions about the incident or whether Bowles had failed police and military recruitment testing, saying it was still under investigation.

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

He said Kellerberrin was a tight-knit community and the focus would be to support the families of the two men and those affected by the fatal shooting.

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

"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."

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

Mr Papalia said the government was rewriting the Firearms Act and the laws would be the toughest in the country, with a draft to be completed in the coming months.

He also said the legislation was likely to include regulations for applicants to undertake mental health checks.

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