Police in New Zealand on Wednesday arrested a man after he attacked the country’s parliament building with an axe, smashing the building’s main glass entrance doors.
Law enforcement officers in Wellington, New Zealand’s national capital, said they arrived at the parliament complex around 5:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday after receiving reports that “a man with an axe was on the grounds,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported on January 13.
After damaging five of the building’s main doors leading into parliament, the 31-year-old suspect did not attempt to enter the building. He was arrested a few minutes later without further incident.
“Police were called to the scene at 5:25 am and the man was arrested without incident at 5:35 am,” a Wellington police spokesperson said, according to the Guardian.
The parliament building was largely empty at the time of the attack as New Zealand’s 120 members of parliament are currently on a summer break on the South Pacific island located in the southern hemisphere.
Police said they have charged the man with “intentional damage and possession of an offensive weapon,” crimes punishable by up to seven years in prison. A judge in New Zealand has temporarily suppressed the suspect’s name, a common practice within the island country’s judicial system. The motivation behind the attack remains unknown.
The chief executive of New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, issued a statement addressing the axe attack on Wednesday. He said New Zealand’s government officials were currently “undertaking a full review of the incident and will assess whether changes to security measures are necessary” at the parliament building as “the safety of those who work at and visit the complex is crucial.”
“I am proud that the New Zealand Parliament is one of the most open, accessible parliaments in the world and I very much hope that this continues,” Gonzalez-Montero said in his statement.
“Our parliament belongs to the people of New Zealand, and it is incredibly important to our democracy that people are able to visit, and interact with their parliament and elected representatives with ease,” he added.
New Zealand’s parliament building installed “retractable bollards on all driveways and increased security within the parliamentary car parks” in 2016. The changes were made to prevent unauthorized vehicles from getting too close to the complex after a man posed a security threat by driving a truck up to the parliament’s main entrance that year.
“New ‘aviation quality’ scanning equipment was procured and installed – another step to keep everyone safe on the parliamentary precinct,” New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service wrote in its 2016-2017 annual report.