THE role of Protective Services Officers is likely to come under further scrutiny after a confrontation on Tuesday night left an officer at Parliament House seriously injured in hospital and another man dead while MPs sat metres away inside the house.
It is believed the man hit the PSO several times on the head with a hammer shortly before 8:30pm, knocking him unconscious and taking his firearm while the officer was engaged in a regular patrol outside Parliament House.
Only a short exchange of words took place before the situation turned violent, police said. A short time later, as he fled through Fitzroy Gardens towards the MCG, the man is believed to have shot himself.
His body was last night lying on a reserve near train lines at the junction of Charles Street and Wellington Parade South.
An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman said the PSO had been treated at the scene by medical officers before being taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital with non life-threatening head injuries. Assistant Commissioner Andrew Crisp said last night that the injured man, in his 40s, had been working as a PSO for seven years and had been recently promoted.
"He was working here with two other members at Parliament House," Mr Crisp said. "There was a Protective Services Officer in the control room and other protective services officer on foot patrol in the vicinity."
"He was a member of the protective services unit working on security duties here at Parliament House – he was not a transit protect services officer working on the rail network."
Parliament was sitting and additional police were called to the scene in an attempt to secure the site. Police cordoned off Wellington Parade South from Jolimont Terrace to Jolimont Road. Inside, Premier Ted Baillieu and other MPs were warned not to leave the building.
''Our first response was for the member of the protective service,'' Mr Baillieu said afterwards.
''A taxi driver who witnessed the incident told Fairfax Media he heard a voice yelling ''he's got a gun, he's got a gun,'' and then saw the man run down the street.
Another witness, Rebecca Camilleri, said she had emerged from an event inside Parliament House just after the initial assault.
''We heard a half-moan, half-scream and as we walked down the steps we saw a guy lying there on the ground,'' she said. ''You could see blood everywhere and there was a hammer next to him.''
Protective Services Officers have similar powers to police and are armed, a decision that has angered some critics.
The officers have long been a fixture outside Parliament House but their use was only extended to Melbourne's train stations in February of this year.
The incident will raise questions about security at Parliament House with some witnesses describing a scene of confusion in the immediate aftermath.
Premier Ted Baillieu released a statement late last night, saying police would conduct a thorough investigation and that he and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan were being briefed about developments as they happened. ''The thoughts of the Victorian Parliament are with the officer, his family and friends, and his colleagues,'' it said. ''In any circumstance, an assault on a Victoria Police Officer is completely unacceptable and deeply concerning.''
While full details of the incident are not yet known police were at pains last night to point out that the injured man was not a transit officer.
Criminal justice advocate, RMIT University Adjunct professor Peter Norden said the shooting raised questions over the increased arming of security services ''whether they be police or PSOs''.
''There will be more of these incidents,'' he warned.
The Assistant Commissioner said the incident was unlikely to prompt a police rethink on the arming of PSOs.