‘Help me, dad’s been shot’: Grim details from Sydney gym shooting

Police at the scene where a man was shot dead while sitting in his car, alongside his 12-year-old son.

Police at the scene where a man was shot dead while sitting in his car, alongside his 12-year-old son. Photo: AAP

Police have revealed that a man killed in a drive-by shooting in south-west Sydney was sitting in his car with his 12-year-old son when gunmen opened fire.

Police said the 40-year-old-man was in his black Mercedes outside the Elite Fight Force mixed martial arts gym in Sefton just after 6.30am on Thursday when the killers struck.

The man, named in media reports as Taha Sabbagh, was going to the gym to train when the assassins pulled up in a Mazda and shot him multiple times in the chest as his 12-year-old sat in the passenger seat of their vehicle.

All I heard was a young guy screaming: ‘Help me, help me, my dad’s been shot’,” one witness told The Daily Telegraph.

sydney gym shooting

Taha Sabbagh was shot dead on Thursday morning. Photo: Facebook

Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty described the murder as an “egregious, violent act”.

“It has all the hallmarks of an organised crime related murder,” he said on Thursday.

“These people are callous and brazen.

“They have no regard for human life knowing there was a 12-year-old boy in the car and still carrying out the execution in front of him.”

The victim’s son was physically unharmed but Detective Superintendent Doherty said the event had taken a mental toll.

“His father’s been shot in front of him. It’s very traumatising for him and his family,” he said.

A witness told Sydney radio 2GB on Thursday that he heard a series of shots that he initially thought were from a car backfiring.

“I was in the back of the workshop just before 7am and I heard a series of bangs which I was hoping was a car backfiring and as I heard a car speed off there was another series of bangs,” he said.

“I hesitated to go to the front of the workshop obviously, and then I slowly walked to the windows and saw people coming out.

“Within minutes there was a load of ambulances, police everywhere, and then we saw a man on the ground, not in a good way.”

Mr Sabbagh was alive when emergency services arrived at the scene, but paramedics could not revive him.

Police later found a burnt-out Mazda 3 about a kilometre away in neighbouring Birrong and they believe the vehicle might help identify the assailants.

While Mr Sabbagh had links to the criminal underworld, Detective Superintendent Doherty said police were keeping an open mind about the motives behind his murder.

“At this stage, there is no evidence of it being connected to any previous conflicts that have plagued the city in the last 18 months. We’re treating it as an isolated incident,” he said.

He said police suspected there were two people behind the shooting, although they were trying to work out who they were and establish a motive.

“We believe whilst he (Mr Sabbagh) was relatively not well known to police, he was associated with people who are well known to police,” Detective Superintendent Doherty said.

He said Mr Sabbagh had been “intending to go to the gym”.

“Associates of the victim have connections to that gym as well, and that’s why circumstances lend themselves to a targeted attack,” Detective Superintentent Doherty said.

Mr Sabbagh was being mourned in social media posts on Thursday afternoon.

“Taha was a loving son, brother, father, husband, he was loved by many. He will be missed greatly by all who knew him,” wrote one Facebook user.

After the shooting, Elite Fight Force posted a notice to social media, advising it would be closed on Thursday.

“All classes will be cancelled,” it read.

“Please bear with us and stay updated with our stories for any new announcements.”

Detective Superintendent Doherty asked anyone with dashcam footage or other information to come forward and assist with the investigation.

-with AAP

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