“We have established a special unit here in Malmoe to investigate between 10 and 15 similar crimes … They are all shootings with no apparent motive,” local police spokesman Lars-Haakan Lindholm told AFP.
While the special unit has refused to reveal exactly which cases it is looking into, Lindholm said they had in common that the victims in virtually every case appeared to be of immigrant origin and “we have no explanation for why they were shot.”
“It does appear that there are racist motives,” he said, adding that “we are receiving help from profilers from the national police force. This is our number one top priority right now.”
In nearly every case, the shootings have taken place just after nightfall and have targeted people with immigrant backgrounds, Skåne County police spokesperson J-B Cederholm told reporters during a Wednesday morning press conference.
“The two most recent shootings look exactly alike: men of colour have been shot from behind near a bus stop,” said Cederholm, according to the TT news agency.
A criminal profiling unit from Sweden’s National Investigation Department (Rikskriminalen) has been brought into the investigation and is now working in parallel with the county police in Skåne.
The 28-year-old man who was shot near a bus stop in Malmö on Tuesday night has had the bullet removed.
“It landed 5 centimetres from the spine,” said Cederholm.
The man was among three victims who were shot within within the course of just a few hours Tuesday night in Malmö. Each of the victims was seriously injured.
A 19-year-old suspect was detained later on suspicions of attempted murder for the shooting of the two victims around 12.30am Wednesday morning in the city’s Lindängen neighbourhood.
The shootings involving the 19-year-old are not believed to be related to the shooting of the 28-year-old man who was waiting for a bus.
During their press conference, police focused on the possible connections between the shooting of the 28-year-old and other, similar shootings in the city in recent months.
The shooting incidents have taken place throughout the city and none of the victims had any known threats directed against them.
Each victim has no understanding of why they were suddenly and inexplicably shot. Nor have they been able to make any observations of what may have transpired in the moments before they were shot.
The county police now believe that the fatal shooting of a women in her twenties in October 2009 in Västra Skrävlingevägen, near the Rosengård neighbourhood, may be the first in a series of related shootings.
The woman sat in her car together with a 21-year-old man who was injured, but survived.
“One theory is that a single assailant, or several, are focused on people with immigrant backgrounds,” said Cederholm.
Swedish criminology professor Jerzy Sarnecki expressed concern about the ramifications of the police’s new theory about the shootings.
“It’s extremely disconcerting, really nasty and it’s really urgent that the police arrest the perpetrator as quickly as possible. These sorts of people don’t stop until they are arrested,” he told TT.
He drew parallels between the Malmö shootings and the “lasermannen” (‘Laser Man’), shootings which kept Sweden on edge in the early 1990s.
“Even then there was a heated debate in society about immigrants, similar to the one we’re having now about the Sweden Democrats. This is naturally speculation on my part, but there are people with mental illnesses, on the verge of a breakdown, who can be affected by such a debate which can then unleash (an outbreak),” said Sarnecki.
The apparent randomness of the shootings and the fact that they appear to be targeting people of immigrant origin has raised fears that Sweden again could be facing a wave of racist shootings by a lone gunman.
The ‘Laser Man’, John Ausonius, received his moniker because his victims were targeted with a red dot from a rifle equipped with a laser sight.
Ausonius targeted his first immigrant victim at the end of the summer of 1991. Two Eritreans saw a circle of red light rest on their compatriot’s body before he was hit.
The man survived but Laser Man terrorized Stockholm’s immigrant population for a further eighteen months.
Between August 1991 to January 1992, Ausonius, today 57, shot 11 people — most of them immigrants — in and around Stockholm. He killed one person and seriously wounded the others.
He was sentenced to life behind bars in 1994 and remains in prison.
Lindholm however stressed Wednesday that “there is nothing to indicate yet at least that we’re dealing with another Laserman,” pointing out that it has yet to be determined whether the crimes were committed by a single shooter.