Horrible delay? Norway sees the police’s response to the arrow attack

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Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, on the right, and Minister of Justice and Emergency Management Emilie Enger Mehl lay flowers and light candles to honor the four women and a man who died in Wednesday’s bow attack, in Kongsberg, on Friday 15 October 2021.

Terje Bendiksby / Associated Press

Norway announced on Saturday that it will hold an independent investigation into the actions of the police and security agencies after a bow attack that killed five people and injured three others. Police have been criticized for reacting too slowly to quell the massacre and acknowledging that the five deaths occurred after police first encountered the attacker.

Norway’s domestic intelligence service, known by the abbreviation PST, said it decided to seek review after consulting with the country’s national and regional police chiefs about the attack on Wednesday night in the southern city of Kongsberg. A 37-year-old local resident who police said has admitted the murders has been detained and is undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

“Given the seriousness of the matter, it is very important that learning points and any weaknesses and errors are quickly identified in order to be able to implement measures immediately,” PST said in a statement.

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Norwegian media have questioned how long it took officers to arrest 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 logged at 18:13 and Andersen Braathen was caught at 18:47

Authorities have not revealed what exactly happened within the 34-minute period.

In general, police officials say that the first police officers at the scene observed the suspect but took protection and called for reinforcements when arrows were fired at them. Officials have admitted that the armed suspect escaped and then probably killed the five victims between the ages of 52 and 78 both outdoors and inside certain apartments.

Norway is one of the few dozen countries in the world where law enforcement officials do not automatically carry weapons even if they have quick access to weapons and other weapons, depending on the situation. Authorities in a statement said that the police were unarmed during their first meeting and armed during later meetings with Andersen Braathen.

Authorities said one of the injured was a police officer on duty who had entered the supermarket and that all the wounded had been released from the hospital.

The alleged attacker 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 agents interviewed 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 was suffering from a serious mental illness, says NRK.

VG-tidningen also reported that the agency believed that Andersen Braathen could carry out a “low-scale attack with simple means in Norway.” PST did not comment on the report.

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Police said on Saturday that their suspicion that the suspect’s obvious mental illness had caused the attack had been further strengthened, while Andersen Braathen’s statement to be a convert to Islam had become a less important line of inquiry.

“He himself has said that he has converted to Islam. It is a hypothesis, but is also a hypothesis that he has not done so. The investigation so far shows that he has not done this (converting) seriously, says police inspector Per Thomas Omholt at a press conference on Saturday.

Omholt said on Friday that three weapons, including arrow and arrow, were used in the attack, but declined to further identify the weapons or reveal how the five victims were killed due to the ongoing investigation.

A spokesman for Norway’s Muslim community told NRK that it was irresponsible for the police to publish the suspect’s self-exalted conversion to Islam, as they did on Thursday.

“It hurts, it’s very painful,” Waqar Dar told NRK. “There are many young Muslims who write to me and say that they have a nasty feeling. They love Norway but feel that they are not loved back. ”

Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl, who took office on Thursday together with the rest of Norway’s new center-left government, has so far not commented on the police’s handling of the attack.

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“Now it is important that the police get a review and investigate the matter properly,” she told SVT.

Norwegian police on Saturday identified the four female victims as Andrea Meyer, 52; Hanne Englund, 56; Liv Berit Borge, 75; and Gun Marith Madsen, 78. The male victim was identified as Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75.

Several of them were part of Kongsberg’s flourishing artist community, Norwegian media reported. NRK described Englund as a highly respected ceramicist and artist who ran a gallery and lived in Kongsberg. Madsen was a self-taught painter and Borge held board positions in local non-profit art 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 visit Kongsberg on Sunday and participate in a memorial service for the victims in the city’s main church.

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