Police shot alleged perpetrator of Copenhagen shootings at Free Speech Debate and Synagogue
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Police in the Danish capital Copenhagen shot and killed the alleged perpetrator of an attack on a free speech and blasphemy debate as well as an attack on the community center of the Copenhagen Synagogue. Two civilians were killed and five police officers were injured during the attacks, reports Copenhagen police.
Saturday, at approximately 15:30 CET a “lone gunman” armed with an automatic rifle attempted to gain access to the cultural center “Krudttønden” in Copenhagen’s Østerbro district. Participants in the public debate on free speech and blasphemy included the French Ambassador to Denmark, Lars Zimaray, and the Swedish “Mohamed cartoonist” Lars Vilks.
Vilks had been subject to several attempts on his life due to his cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed. Police and staff from Denmark’s domestic intelligence service, Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET) were present at the event.
It was reportedly due to the swift return of fire by police that the gunman was repelled in the foyer. Three police officers were reportedly injured during the exchange of gunfire. All three are in stable condition.
One 55 year-old civilian whose name has not yet been officially released or independently verified was shot dead during the shootout. Initial reports described the deceased as a 40-year-old.
The gunman fled the scene in a dark, according to some reports black, according to other reports dark blue Volkswagen Polo. Initial reports alleged two gunmen. Police later stated to the press that they were looking for one gunman. It remains currently uncertain whether the alleged perpetrator “commandeered” the escape vehicle as some initial reports suggested, and who the registered owner of the car is.
The car was discovered at about an hour after the shooting at the cultural center. Police reports that the alleged perpetrator then entered a taxi cab who reported to Copenhagen police that he had driven a person that matched the description of the man police was looking for to an address at Svanevej in Copenhagen.
The alleged gunman arrived at the address at about 16:15 CET and left the premises again at 16:37 reports Danish police, citing video cameras in the area as source. Police states that it has kept the apartment complex under surveillance since about 23:00 CET on Saturday.
At about 01:00 am CET on Sunday, a gunman attacked the community house of the Copenhagen Synagogue of the Danish Mosaic Faith Community in Krystalgade. A gunman opened fire at the guards at the community house. One of the private guards was fatally injured while two police officers sustained injuries but are in stable condition, report Danish police as well as Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt. The PM held a press conference together with Minister of Justice Mette Frederiksen at about 10:30 CET on Sunday.
Danish Police issued a statement, saying that police officers observed that the alleged gunman returned to the area at Svanevej at about 04:30 – 05:00 o’ clock on Sunday morning.
Police states that officers of the Police Action Force (Politiets Aktionsstyrke) called on the man who he responded by opening fire and shot several shots at the police officers. Police reports that the officers at the scene then returned fire and fatally shot the alleged perpetrator. None of the police officers were injured.
During a press briefing at 08:00 o’clock on Sunday morning, police spokespersons stated that their current working theory is that it is one and the same person who committed both the attack on the cultural center and on the Synagogue’s community house.
A person with experience within the domestic intelligence service PET as well as within Danmark’s national police stated that it is unlikely that police would state that they are working on the basis of a “lone gunman hypothesis” unless they were rather certain that the evidence that supports their hypothesis.
Police and PET are, however, investigating the alleged perpetrator’s computer, phone, question persons with ties to him. Besides that, police is conducting a large-scale forensic investigation including ballistic investigations, DNA analysis, searches of large areas with police dogs, and other investigations. An apartment in Mjølnerparken, an area known for a high percentage of immigrants was reportedly ransacked by 15 police officers on Sunday morning. The apartment is located some 500 meters from where the alleged gunman was shot dead by police. Video material police investigates reportedly suggests that the alleged perpetrator was at the apartment before he went on to carry out the second attack.
PET released a statement on its website, stating that everything suggests that the events were a terrorist attack and that PET confirms that the terror threat in Denmark was and remains serious. That is, the next highest level. PET otherwise states that it assists Copenhagen police and refers to Copenhagen police for additional information.
Neither Copenhagen police nor PET are currently responding to individual media and journalists and their questions. That means, “all” actually available information is the information that is being released during official police and government press briefings.
Among questions which would be relevant for independent media would, for example be:
- What is the name of the alleged perpetrator who was shot and killed Sunday morning?
- Who is the registered owner of the Volkswagen Polo – the escape vehicle?
- Who are the two civilian victims who were shot and killed at the cultural center and the Synagogue’s community house? (see updates below)
- Has PET or Police had any previous contact with the alleged perpetrator?
- Was it necessary to fatally shoot the alleged perpetrator and why was it impossible for a specially trained police force to arrest and detain him alive?
Danish Prime and Justice Ministers Press Conference. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and Minister of Justice Mette Frederiksen held a joint press conference at the Danish Parliament’s “Hall of Mirrors” at about 10:20 on Sunday. Thorning Schmidt conveyed her condolences to the families and loved ones of the two deceased and thanked police for a swift and professional response to the attacks. She particularly thanked those officers who were injured while carrying out their work. The PM also thanked PET, the Danish military as well as the health services for their efforts.
The PM stressed that the killing of two innocent civilians and the injuring of five police officers during the attack on a debate on free speech and the attack on the Synagogue’s community house were an attacks on all of Denmark and all that, what Denmark stands for. Especially with regards to Denmark’s Jewish community, Thorning Schmidt stressed that the people of Mosaic faith in Denmark don’t stand alone and that Denmark also stands behind them. Helle Thorning Schmidt thanked the Chancellor of Germany, the President of France and the PM of Spain for expressing their solidarity.