A homeless man who intervened in a terror attack in the Australian city of Melbourne Friday has been hailed a hero, with over $80,000 (AUD 116,000) donated to a fund to thank him.
Shaky cellphone images from the scene showed a man repeatedly shoving a shopping cart, known as a shopping trolley in Australia, at attacker Hassan Khalif Shire Ali who had just stabbed three people and was threatening police officers with a knife.
Social media soon lit up with talk of the brave bystander who had tried to thwart the attack which unfolded within minutes during rush hour on a busy street in the city center.
The man known as “trolley man” was soon identified by local media as Michael Rogers, a homeless man whose phone was destroyed in the incident. A GoFundMe page was soon set up in his honor.
“An incredible man named Michael Rogers from Melbourne, now known as ‘Trolleyman’, put his own life at risk to stop a terrorist who was on a rampage. Mr Rogers bravely shoved a shopping trolley at the terrorist in an attempt to assist police in his capture,” said the GoFundMe page set up by the Melbourne Homeless Collective.
Rogers told CNN affiliate Seven News that he acted after he spotted the shopping cart as Shire Ali went after police officers.
“I’ve seen the trolley to the side and I picked it up and I ran and threw the trolley straight at him and got him but didn’t get him down,” he said. “And I did that motion quite a number of times and it just was not getting him down.
“The guy was out of control so I just went into action mode and tried to swipe him with the trolley.”
Social media users also praised his bravery, but some also criticized his actions.
Victorian Police commissioner Graham Ashton told 3AW that while Rogers was trying to help, his intervention could have had “tragic” consequences.
“I don’t like to criticize people in that situation, he’s acting instinctively about what he’s looking at in front of him,” he said.
“But if a trolley had hit a police member and knocked him over and then this offender got on top of him, we could have had a tragic consequence.
“I think he was trying to support the police in his own way, so I haven’t been jumping on him over the weekend.”
Attacker’s vehicle burst into flames
Friday’s attack, which is being treated as an of act of terrorism, began when the attacker’s vehicle burst into flames and Shire Ali man emerged and started stabbing passersby. The horrifying scene ended when police shot the attacker, who died after being rushed to the hospital under police guard.
Only after he was shot did police realize that three members of the public had been stabbed. One man, Sisto Malasspina, the co-owner of a popular Italian restaurant in Melbourne, died later in hospital.
It’s not clear when Rogers will get the proceeds of the funding campaign.
Donna Stolzenberg, Founder and Managing Director of National Homeless Collective, told Melbourne talk radio station 3AW that a “conversation around what happens with this money” needed to be had.
“We’re not going to go and hand over a $100,000 check, that would put Michael at risk as well.”
CNN’s Josh Berlinger contributed to this story.