SYDNEY (Reuters/AFP) - Australian police sealed off streets and warned the public to keep away from New South Wales state police headquarters in Sydney on Friday (Oct 2) after two people were shot dead, including a civilian police employee, the police and media said.
"A number of shots were fired" on Charles Street, Parramatta in western Sydney outside the New South Wales police headquarters about 4.30pm local time, police said in a statement.
"It appears an officer has discharged his weapon, responding to a report that a person had been shot," the statement said. "Two people have died at the scene. A crime scene has been established.
"A critical incident team will now investigate all circumstances surrounding the incident."
The worker, who has not been identified, was leaving the building in Parramatta, western Sydney, around 4.30pm local time when he was shot once by a gunman at close range, police commissioner Andrew Scipione said.
The gunman - whose identity has also been withheld - remained on the street and later discharged more shots at an officer guarding the headquarters before being killed in an exchange of gunfire with other policemen.
"An employee of the NSW (New South Wales state) police force has been callously murdered here today," Mr Scipione told reporters near the crime scene. "This is a very sobering time for us and I have viewed a number of pieces of footage, I can tell you that this was a brutal... terrible crime."
Mr Scipione said the employee was "deliberately targeted" by the gunman - who was wearing a "long pair of long trousers and a flowing top" and appeared to be operating alone - although he did not give further details.
He said it was also possible the gunman remained on the street after shooting the employee as he wanted to "commit suicide by cop".
Australia's ABC news cited witnesses as saying two bodies covered with sheets were seen near the headquarters at Charles Street in Parramatta.
A Guardian Australia report citing a caller to the 2GB radio station said there was "blood everywhere" following the shooting. Emergency crews reportedly arrived at the scene at 4.35pm, the report added.
Mr Vijay Dantu, whose residence is near the building, told ABC News that he had heard gunshots.
"I was doing some work at my home and there's a gunshot and I thought it was a tyre puncture," ABC News quoted him as saying.
"Then all of a sudden two more, two more shots came."
The shooting came as Australians started to mark the so-called grand final long weekend, with thousands expected to pack public venues as top teams from the National Rugby League and Australian Football League square off in the season's last matches.
"I can assure you that we shouldn't be letting an event like this disturb what we do as a nation," Mr Scipione said, but added that police were assessing whether heightened security was needed in some Sydney spots over the long weekend.
The commissioner said although there was as yet no link to terrorism, homicide investigators assisted by the counter-terrorism unit were "keeping an open mind" about why the attack took place.
"At this stage we've got nothing to link this event to any terrorist-related activity but we could not say that that wasn't the case.
"I want to ensure that we don't jump to conclusions."
Australia has stepped up its efforts in countering terrorism, lifting its terror threat alert to high in September last year, conducting several raids and enacting numerous national security laws.
In December 2014, Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis and two hostages were killed following a 17-hour siege at a central Sydney cafe.