A Norwegian town that has a proud history of producing silver, coins and weapons had to confront the terrible reality Friday of someone using a bow and an arrow to attack their neighbors while they were grocery shopping or doing other activities. Five of them were killed.
People lit candles and laid flowers in memory of the victims of Wednesday’s attack on Kongsberg’s central square. This former mining town of 26,000 people is located southwest of Oslo’s capital. According to police, the victims were between 50 and 70 years old.
“This is a small community so almost everyone knows each other so it’s very strange and very sad for us,” Ingeborg Spanggelo, a teacher, stated. It is almost surreal, if not unreal.
Officers arrested Espen Andersen Braathen (a Kongsberg resident) about half an hour after he started firing arrows at police officers in a supermarket. Police tried to confront him, but lost sight of him as he was firing at them, and had to run, authorities said.
Andersen Braathen moved from the supermarket to a quiet neighborhood with wooden houses and birch tree trees. There he opened fire on people in the street, according to police. Three people were also injured in the attack, along with the five victims.
Per Thomas Omholt, a senior police officer, stated that the attacker used three weapons, but declined to name the type or reveal the circumstances of the victims’ deaths. He said investigators must interview more witnesses, and they don’t want to taint their accounts by reading what they see in the news.
Regional prosecutor in charge of the investigation stated that Andersen Braathen had confessed to the murders. Police said they believe he was acting alone. The domestic intelligence agency of Norway said Thursday that the case seemed to be “an act terrorism”, but cautioned that the investigation is ongoing.
Omholt stated that investigators are continuing to investigate possible motives for the attack as of Friday. However, their “strongest hypothesis for motive” is illness. The officer declined to give details.
“We have many hypotheses. Omholt stated that they are strengthened and weakened during an investigation. “We will discover what happened and why it happened,” Omholt said.
Andersen Braathen was transferred to a mental facility. The ball now lies with the health authorities on when he can be questioned by police. Norwegian media reported Friday that Andersen Braathen will be viewed and evaluated by two experts to determine whether he was legally insane at the time.
Low-crime Norway is a safe country, so mass killings are not common. The attack instantly brought back the worst violence in Norway a decade ago when a right-wing extremist used a bomb, rifle, and pistol to kill 77 people.
Kurt Einar Voldseth from Kongsberg said that the screaming was so loud and horrible, there was no doubt that something was very serious. He had just returned from an errand Wednesday when he heard the commotion. “It was a death scream that burned in my brain.
Voldseth claimed he recognized the attacker and said that he “usually walks with his headphones on and his head down.”
He said that he had only spoken to him once, but that he could be troubled.
A court in Kongsberg placed Andersen Braathen in custody for four week, including two weeks in isolation and a ban on communication with other people, during Friday’s initial hearing.
“Reference is made at the extremely serious nature the case, which has also caused great media attention both nationally and internationally. Important evidence could be lost if the accused isn’t protected from these and other prisoners,” the ruling stated.
He was currently being held on five preliminary murder charges and three preliminary attempted murder charges. Omholt stated that preliminary charges are only a first step towards formal charges. However, a terror-related case could be filed later if there is sufficient evidence.
Andersen Braathen didn’t appear in court. Fredrik Neumann, his defense lawyer, said that he did not have any comments on Andersen Braathen’s case and stated that he has accepted to be imprisoned.
He was described by police as a Muslim convert on Thursday. However, neither the domestic intelligence service nor police gave any explanations or details about why Andersen Braathen was flagged or what they did with the information.
Norwegian media reports that Andersen Braathen was convicted of burglary and drug possession. A court issued a restraining orders last year for him to keep away from his parents for six month after threatening to murder one of them.
Jonas Gahr Stoere (Norway’s new prime Minister) and Emilie Enger Mell (Justice Minister) were both expected to visit Kongsberg on Friday.
Kongsberg can be found in a beautiful valley, surrounded by mountains, about 66 km (41 miles) from Oslo. It was established in 1624 as an area mining community following the discovery of silver. This is also where the Royal Norwegian Mint is located.
For decades, the community had a weapons plant that produced guns. It now houses defense and technology companies.