Police fear a violent gunman on the loose after a crime spree while on parole could try to end the hunt in a shootout.
David Paul Rowntree, 19, eluded a massive police manhunt in inner Melbourne on Monday after allegedly stealing two cars and committing three aggravated burglaries and an armed robbery.
Rowntree, described last year by a judge as being “devious” and “out of control”, gave police the slip after a high-speed chase along the Monash Freeway and was later seen brandishing a shotgun near the MCG, forcing a three-hour lockdown of Melbourne’s sports precinct.
Superintendent Rod Wilson said Rowntree has an extensive criminal history and, although he is believed to have dumped a shotgun in a bin near Rod Laver Arena, could get his hands on more firearms.
“I’d consider him to be extremely dangerous,” he told reporters.
“We ask for people if you have any information, this is really critical, to ring the police because we desperately need to bring this person into custody.
“We are not ruling out that he may have access to other firearms.”
When asked if police were worried about Rowntree being involved in a shootout, he replied: “That is something we are obviously fearful of and that’s why we are making this appeal.
“We’re extremely concerned that this chap may choose to end this in an unsavoury way and we don’t want that to happen.”
Rowntree was sentenced last November to three years in a Youth Justice Centre and ordered to pay $152,000 compensation for burning down a house to cover his fingerprints after burgling the property.
He was released by the Youth Parole Board in March after 12 months in custody.
Supt Wilson urged Rowntree to consult with a lawyer, contact police and give himself up.
He said police would focus their search on Hawthorn, where Rowntree was believed to be living, and in the Geelong and Colac areas, where he is from and has family.
His Facebook page will also be examined. On his profile, Rowntree writes his favourite quote is: “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees in fear.”
He also lists crime shows Underbelly and The Sopranos as among his favourite television shows.
Rowntree was last spotted at 9.40am (AEST), when an elderly couple saw him with a shotgun running across a footbridge between Hisense Arena and the MCG.
Police had put the area into lockdown, closing roads and preventing any trains from going through Richmond station, after finding his stolen Commodore dumped in a car park behind Rod Laver Arena.
He had used the car in a high-speed chase from Cookson Street, Camberwell, after being spotted by police around 9.30am.
Rowntree allegedly rammed a police car and up to four other cars, before getting away.
It is alleged he stole the Commodore, as well as cash, from a home in Walsh Street, Balwyn.
He had earlier broken into a house in the same street while the occupants slept and stole an Audi from a home in Knutsford Drive, Balwyn at 3am.
Police allege Rowntree used the Audi in an armed robbery of a service station on Bulleen Road, Bulleen at 3.10am, then returned the car to the Knutsford address.
Supt Wilson said police have tried to contact Rowntree on his mobile phone but to no avail.
Police were also contacting his family, who have been urged to encourage Rowntree to hand himself in peacefully.
When sentenced last November, the Geelong County Court had heard Rowntree’s long list of offences included arson, criminal damage, handling stolen goods, car theft, burglary and theft.
Judge John Nixon also disqualified him from driving for two years, describing Rowntree as devious.
The lockdown caused major disruption with trains on 10 lines unable to enter the city for two hours, while staff and members of the public in the sports precinct, including the MCG and Rod Laver Arena, were forced to stay indoors.
Anyone with information about Rowntree should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.