Norway said on Saturday it would organize an independent investigation into the actions of police and security agencies following an archery attack that left five dead and three injured. Police have been criticized for reacting too slowly to contain the massacre, acknowledging that all five deaths took place after police first encountered the assailant.
Norway’s domestic intelligence agency, known by the acronym PST, said it decided to request the review after consulting with commanders of the country’s national and regional police over Wednesday night’s attack in the southern town of Kongsberg. A 37-year-old local resident who police say admitted to the murders has been arrested and is undergoing a psychiatric assessment.
“Given the seriousness of the matter, it is very important that learning points and possible weaknesses and errors are identified quickly so that action can be taken immediately,” the PST said in a statement.
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Norwegian media asked how long it took officers to apprehend suspect Espen Andersen Braathen after the regional police department received reports of a man shooting arrows in a supermarket. According to a police timeline, the first information about the attack was recorded at 6:13 p.m. and Andersen Braathen was arrested at 6:47 p.m.
Authorities have not disclosed what exactly happened during that 34-minute period.
Typically, police officials say the first police at the scene observed the suspect but went into hiding and called for reinforcements when arrows were fired at them. Officials admitted that the armed suspect fled and then likely killed the five victims aged 52 to 78 both outside and inside some apartments.
Norway is one of the few dozen countries in the world where law enforcement officers do not automatically carry firearms despite having quick access to firearms and other weapons, depending on the situation. In a statement, authorities said police were unarmed when they first met and armed during subsequent encounters with the alleged assailant.
The news comes as the United States increasingly calls for police funding and disarming police, including a call from Senator Ed Markey to disarm cops with “weapons of war.”
“Portland Police routinely attack peaceful protesters with brute force. We must disarm these officers, along with all other U.S. police departments, of weapons of war, and enact a nationwide ban on tear gas, rubber and plastic bullets, and beanbag bullets. the Massachusetts Democrat said last year.
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Those calls became a reality for Portland State University police security officers, who announced earlier this year that their officers would begin patrolling unarmed.
“I support the idea, I’m glad there aren’t any guns on patrol,” a graduate student from the school said of the move.
Others called on social workers to replace police on some calls, arguing they would be better equipped to handle mental health emergencies that sometimes result in fatal interactions with police.
Authorities said one of the injured in the attack in Norway was a police officer on leave beaten inside the supermarket, and all injured were released from the hospital.
The alleged perpetrator was known to police before the deadly attack. Norwegian public broadcaster NRK reported that PST security officials received information about Andersen Braathen in 2015 and that officers questioned him in 2017 to determine if he posed a threat. The following year, the agency contacted Norwegian health authorities about him and concluded that he suffered from severe mental illness, NRK said.
VG newspaper also reported that the agency believed Andersen Braathen could carry out a “small-scale attack with simple means in Norway”. PST has not commented on this report.
Police said on Saturday their suspicions that the suspect’s apparent mental illness caused the attack grew even stronger, while Andersen Braathen’s claim that he had converted to Islam became a line less important investigation.
“He himself said that he had converted to Islam. It is a hypothesis, but it is also a hypothesis that he did not. The investigation shows so far that he didn’t do it (convert) seriously, “said Inspector Per. Thomas Omholt said at a press conference on Saturday.
Omholt said on Friday that three weapons, including bow and arrows, were used in the attack, but declined to further identify the weapons or reveal how the five victims were killed due to the investigation in Classes.
A spokesperson for Norway’s Muslim community told NRK it was irresponsible of the police to publish the suspect’s self-proclaimed conversion to Islam, as they did on Thursday.
“It hurts, it’s very painful,” Waqar Dar told NRK. “There are a lot of young Muslims who write to me and say they have a bad feeling. They love Norway but feel they are not loved in return.”
Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl, who took office Thursday along with the rest of Norway’s new center-left government, has so far made no comment on the police handling of the attack.
“Now it is important that the police get a full investigation and investigation into the case,” she told Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
Norwegian police on Saturday identified the four female victims as Andrea Meyer, 52; Hanne Englund, 56 years old; Liv Berit Borge, 75; and Gun Marith Madsen, 78. The male victim has been identified as Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75.
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Several of them were part of Kongsberg’s thriving artist community, Norwegian media reported. NRK described Englund as a highly respected potter and artist who ran a gallery and lived in Kongsberg. Madsen was a self-taught painter and Borge held leadership positions in local nonprofit arts organizations.
Sauve had a long career as a local judge and previously worked for the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment. He was Borge’s partner, NRK said. Meyer had moved to Norway from his native Germany several years ago.
Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit will visit Kongsberg on Sunday and attend a memorial service for the victims at the town’s main church.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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