“There had been so many break-ins at the bank and nothing had happened. I was just irritated by it,” said Valter Törnberg to The Local.
Törnberg was on his way out of the bank recently when a car pulled up and three armed men dressed in heavy jackets and masks jumped out.
“It just came to me to do something. I had a camera in my car and I thought I could maybe get a picture of their car,” he explained.
Törnberg grabbed his camera and a metal tool from his car and set off to snap a photo of the robbers’ vehicle.
Just then, the man on lookout come out from the other side the robbers’ car and pointed an automatic weapon directly at Törnberg’s chest.
But the retired prison worker wasn’t afraid.
Rather than flee, he instead started walking toward the gun-wielding man.
“I wanted to get closer to get a better picture,” he said.
“I don’t know, I just decided to do it; I just became really calm and felt, ‘I can handle this.’”
Törnberg took a picture of the gunman and was about to point his digital camera toward the robbers’ car when the device fell from his hands, its batteries flying out upon hitting the ground.
But his actions unnerved the thief, who then began slowly walking backwards toward the bank’s entrance, keeping his weapon pointed at the pensioner.
“I knew he wouldn’t shoot an old man,” said Törnberg, who followed the gunman into the bank.
The robber called for help from his accomplices, who were busy emptying the bank’s safe. Bank employees and customers were on the ground as one of the other thieves came at Törnberg with a crowbar.
“At that point, I realized there wasn’t anything more I could do,” he said.
“I raised my hands and said, ‘I give up.’”
But as he began walking out of the bank followed by the same gunman he had met outside, Törnberg couldn’t let the injustice of having a gun pointed at him go unpunished.
Just near the bank entrance, Törnberg noticed out of the corner of his eye that the robber had turned his head back toward the bank. In an instant, the 78-year-old turned and lunged at the gunman, landing a blow to the man’s head with the metal tool.
The gunman fell to the floor and dropped his gun.
Törnberg could have picked up the weapon, but decided not to, fearing that taking the weapon could have resulted in harm coming to the people held hostage inside.
“If I’d been alone, I probably would have taken the gun,” he said.
Törnberg turned and continued “walking calmly” back to his car, despite a shot being fired at him by one of the other armed men.
Back in his car, Törnberg regretted his actions.
“I’ve never hit anyone like that in my life,” he said.
“I could have just as easily left the bank without hurting the man.”
But Törnberg’s worries over the fallen bank robber’s condition evaporated when he saw all three men leaving the scene together.
“I was relieved to see that the third man was with the others and to know I hadn’t hurt him too badly,” he said.
Tornberg was able to recover the picture of the gunman from his dropped camera and turned it over to police, who eventually arrested all three suspects.
Despite having been retired for nearly twenty-years, Törnberg believes that his thirty years working in Swedish prisons played a role in his decision to intervene.
“I’d spent a lot of time with criminals and learned from their stories how they think, what their tactics are,” he said.
“The knowledge and strength one earns from working for thirty years tends to stick around.”