Copenhagen Mall Shooting: Police See No Terrorism Motive

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-04 11:16:26 : Jasmina Nielsen

COPENHAGEN — The gunman accused of fatally shooting three people at a mall in Copenhagen this weekend most likely did not have a terrorist motive and was known to the mental health services in Denmark, the authorities said on Monday.

“Our assessment is that these are random victims,” Soren Thomassen, chief inspector of the Copenhagen police, said a day after the shootings shocked a country where such attacks are rare. “There is no evidence to support a terrorist act,” he added.

The suspect, who was identified as a 22-year-old Danish man but has not been publicly named, was carrying weapons — a rifle and a pistol — that are legal in Denmark, but he did not have permission to possess the weapons used in the attack, Inspector Thomassen said.

Inspector Thomassen said that the police had questioned the suspect, who is expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing and will be formally charged with manslaughter.

“I will wait to comment on the motive, revenge or otherwise,” said Inspector Thomassen, who added that there was no indication that the suspect was working with others.

The shooting took place as millions of Danes spent a weekend at events celebrating music and sports throughout the country, including the start of the Tour de France (the race often starts in countries outside France).

“I think we have rarely experienced such a stark contrast as yesterday,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a news conference on Monday. “In a split second, the party and the joy stopped and the worst possible thing happened to us.”

The three people killed in Denmark’s largest shopping center on Sunday were a male 17-year-old Dane, a female 17-year-old Dane and a 47-year-old man with Russian citizenship who was living in Denmark, Inspector Thomassen said.

The four other people who were shot and injured were identified as two Danish citizens, a 40-year-old woman and a 19-year-old woman; and two Swedish citizens, a 50-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl.

Casper Claudius, the head of the anesthesiology and trauma center at the Rigshospitalet, a hospital where three of the injured were taken, said that two of the victims were now in stable condition and outside mortal danger, while a third remained in critical condition. A fourth is being treated at Herlev hospital, and is not in critical condition, officials said.

The police said that a total of 30 people were wounded in connection with the attack, although 20 of those were people who suffered minor injuries in the effort to flee from the gunman.

The shooting took place at Field’s shopping center, a large complex near the center of Copenhagen, the Danish capital, and is home to more than 140 shops that include Danish and international fashion brands.

As the attack unfolded, people raced to leave the mall, while others tried to seek shelter inside a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, according to witness accounts and video and images posted on social media. Mall staff members were reported to have barricaded the doors and remained there for about 45 minutes.

Denmark has restrictive gun laws: Civilians are not allowed to possess automatic firearms, and private possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and handguns is permitted only with special authorization, according to a repository of gun violence data kept by the University of Sydney for Gun Policy, an organization focused on gun control and violence.

Only licensed gun owners can acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition. The authorities hold a record of licensed gun owners and applicants — who must pass a background check that considers criminal and mental health records — must establish a reason to possess a firearm, such hunting or target shooting.

Region Hovedstadens Psykiatri, Denmark’s largest psychiatric hospital body, declined to comment on whether the suspect had ever received a mental health assessment or treatment at one of their facilities in Copenhagen. It said in a statement that staff members were continuing to offer support to those affected by the events.

In Denmark, there are about 10 firearms per 100 people, according to 2017 data from the repository. In the United States, by contrast, the figure is more than 120.

Correspondingly, gun deaths are much rarer in Denmark. In 2018, the rate of gun deaths was one per 100,000 people, according to Gun Policy. In the United States in the same year it was about 12.

Ms. Frederiksen said that discussions would naturally arise about not only the weapons that were used but also the state of mental health services in the country.

“We will have to have these discussions, but today we must remember the victims, show our sympathy and support, and look after everyone who has been involved,” she said.

The attack at the mall was the worst mass shooting episode in Denmark since February 2015, when an Islamist extremist killed two and injured five others in three separate attacks across Copenhagen.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of today’s cowardly attack in Copenhagen,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

Emma Bubola and Euan Ward contributed reporting from London.

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