Residents of a Norwegian town with a proud heritage of producing coins, weapons and silver struggled on Friday with the horrifying knowledge that someone in their community had lost their lives to people doing their grocery shopping or other evening activities. used bow and arrow to attack – and managed to kill five of them.
In a central square in Kongsberg, a former mining town of 26,000 people surrounded by mountains and southwest of the Norwegian capital, people lit flowers and candles in honor of four women and one man killed in Wednesday’s attack. Police said the age of the victims was between 50 and 70.
“It’s a small community, so almost everyone knows each other, so it’s a very strange and very sad experience for us,” said Ingeborg Spangelo, a teacher who brought her students to the immediate memorial. “It’s almost real or unreal.”
Authorities arrested a resident of Kongsberg, identified as Espen Andersen Brathen, a 37-year-old Danish national. Law enforcement officials have said he was detained for nearly half an hour after he allegedly began shooting arrows at a supermarket where police tried to confront him, but when he opened fire on him. They were ignored.
Police said Anderson drove from a Brathen supermarket to a quiet downtown neighborhood of wooden houses and birch trees, where he opened fire on people across the street and inside some apartments. Three were injured with five people killed.
Senior police officer Per Thomas Omholt said Friday that all three weapons were used in the attack, but he declined to identify the types or explain how the five victims were killed, saying investigators needed more Witnesses need to be interviewed and don’t want their accounts to be tainted by what they read in the news.
Officials who responded to the first alert at 6.13 am. Afternoon, encountered the criminal in the supermarket. It was here that an off-duty police officer who was shopping was injured by an arrow in the shoulder. The police were shot twice with arrows, and as they sought shelter and called for reinforcements, the suspect managed to escape. Investigators believe that the five victims were later murdered.
“The murders were committed both outside and inside the house. Among other things, the (suspect) has visited a private address. In addition, arrows were fired at people in a public place,” Omholt said at a press conference.
The regional prosecutor leading the investigation has said that Anderson Brathen confessed to the murders after his arrest, and police said they believed he acted alone. Norway’s domestic intelligence agency said on Thursday that the case appeared to be “an act of terrorism”, but cautioned that the investigation was ongoing.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK said Friday that in 2015 the agency, known by its acronym PST, received information about Andersen Brathen and met the suspect in 2017. The following year, PST contacted Norwegian health authorities about the man and concluded that he was not motivated by religion or ideology, but was seriously mentally ill. VG newspaper said that the PST then believed it could conduct a “small-scale attack in Norway with simple means”.
PST had no immediate comment.
Ohmholt said that as of Friday, investigators were continuing to rule out possible causes or causes of the attack, but that his “strongest hypothesis for motive is disease.” Anderson Brathen’s “health has worsened,” the official said, refusing to give details.
“We work with many hypotheses. They are weakened and strengthened during the investigation,” Omholt said. “We will find out what happened and why.”
Anderson Brathen has been transferred to a psychiatric facility and “now the ball is with the health authorities” when police can interrogate him. Ohmholt said that “at least” two experts would inspect and evaluate Anderson Brathen to determine whether he was legally sane at the time of the attack.
The suspect’s mental health means it is “important to get information about the accused’s past,” Ohmholt said and called witnesses. Police said they want to map his activities in recent years, including on social media.
Mass killings are rare in low-crime Norway, and the attack immediately recalls the country’s worst peacetime killing a decade ago, when a right-wing domestic extremist killed 77 people with bombs, rifles and pistols .
“The shouting was so intense and terrible that there was no doubt that something very serious was going on,” said Kurt Einar Woldseth, a resident of Kongsberg, who returned home after hearing the commotion on Wednesday. “I can only describe it as a ‘death scream,’ and it burned through my mind.”
Woldseth said he recognized the attacker, adding that he lived nearby and “usually walks with his head down and headphones on.”
“I’ve only talked to him a few times, but I think he might be a problem person,” he said.
During a preliminary hearing on Friday, a court in Kongsberg ordered Anderson Brathen to be detained for four weeks, including two weeks in isolation, and banned him from communicating with others.
“Reference has been made to the extremely serious nature of the matter, which has generated great media interest both nationally and internationally. If the accused is not saved from this and other prisoners, vital evidence may be lost,” the ruling read.
He was being held on five counts of preliminary murder and three counts of initial attempt to murder. Ohmholt said the initial charges are a step less than the formal charges, and terrorism-related charges could be brought later if the evidence backs it up.
Anderson Brathen did not appear in court. His defense lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, told Norwegian news agency NTB that he had no comment about his client: “He has agreed to the imprisonment, so it really …