A man described as a loner upset by the recent death of his mother was fatally wounded by police Wednesday after gunning down 11 people, wiping out almost half the population of a seaside village.

New Zealand's worst massacre began Tuesday night when 33-year-old David Malcolm Gray set fire to a neighbor's house in the South Island village of Aramoana and began shooting people who came to help."There may have been a children's party there or something as there seemed to be a lot of kids about," said neighbor Dorothy Crimp.

The siege in the town 17 miles north of Dunedin ended 23 hours later when anti-terrorism police rushed a house where Gray was holed up and shot him in the chest after he wounded one officer in the leg.

In between, Gray killed two children, including a 6-year-old boy who rode up on his bicycle to see what all the commotion was about, the head of police in nearby Port Chalmers, and eight other adults.

Two young girls wounded in the assault were hospitalized in stable condition.

Gray had used high-powered rifles to keep police at bay and prevent them from reaching the victims, who were scattered on the lawn of his house and a nearby street.

New Zealand Police Commissioner John Jamieson described the gunman as "one tough customer" and "absolutely ruthless."