“At around 4.15pm, a middle-aged man grabbed a two-year-old boy from his mother on Storgatan in central Malmö … At one point he was pointing a knife at the boy,” local police spokesman Calle Persson told AFP.
The man, who was not identified, was no relation of the boy and his motives remained unclear, Persson said, adding “he appears to be mentally unstable.”
Police blocked off a large area near Storgatan, and outside the building there were several police cars and ambulances. A large crowd also gathered as the drama unfolded.
According to a building worker involved in renovating a mall on the corner of Storgatan and Södra Förstadsgatan, the man took the child in a part the shopping centre still open for the public. He then tried to sneak out a back door, but ended up in a hallway that is being converted from shoppes to office space.
Several negotiators and as many as 25 police officers rushed to the scene, reportedly using stun grenades when they rushed the building and arrested the man.
The man was finally arrested at 6:18 pm and the boy was unharmed, Persson said.
“The child is being reunited with his mother as quickly as possible,” he said.
Criminology professor Jerzy Sarnecki told the TT news agency that children are usually only taken hostage as part of a family dispute. He considered Monday’s situation is Malmö as extremely rare.
“It’s hard to comment on, but this seems to be a person with serious psychiatric problems who has flipped out,” he said.
Sarnecki theorized that the man took a child rather than an adult simply because it was easier to get to a child.
“It’s something rational within the irrational,” said Sarnecki.