Man arrested for murder in Malmö shootings

Police have confirmed that a 38-year-old man was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in Malmö in connection with the recent shootings in southern Sweden.

Man arrested for murder in Malmö shootings
Ulf Sempert, Solveig Wollstad, Börje Sjöholm and Ulf Sempert at press conference

He faces charges for one murder and seven attempted murders. The suspect was charged in absentia in the afternoon and arrested at 6.30pm on Saturday. The man has denied the crimes, according to chief prosecutor Solveig Wollstad.

“It was at 6.30pm in the evening it began. I saw many police with helmets and shields sneaking around. However, they were very discreet,” an eyewitness at the arrest near central Malmö told news agency TT on Sunday.

“Everything proceeded calmly and there was no uproar. The police appeared to have a good grip on the situation,” the witness added.

Police technicians were also on site.

“They took away many cardboard boxes, bags and other things. It was all over at 8pm,” the witness said.

Of the 50 to 60 shootings that have taken place in Malmö last year, police consider about 15 of them as “unaccounted.”

One woman was shot to death near Västra Skrävlinge church, while eight others were injured.

Trez Persson, 20, was killed last October when someone fired numerous shots into the car she was sitting in with a friend, a man of immigrant origin, who was seriously injured in the attack. She was the only one who did not have an immigrant background.

At several of the shootings, including the murder, a single large-calibre weapon was used.

Intense media interest greeted the police press conference that began at 1pm on Sunday that was broadcast on public television. Eight to 10 television crews were on site, as well as about 20 journalists, including those representing Danish media.

Wollstad confirmed that she charged a 38-year-old man in absentia on Saturday. After preliminary questioning, police decided to proceed with an arrest in connection with the murder in Malmö in October 2009 and seven attempted murders from October 10th, 2009 to last month.

In October alone, numerous shootings appear linked to the case, including two men shot in the back a week apart as they waited alone in the dark at separate isolated bus stops.

“By noon on Tuesday, I will take a position on whether to demand custody for the man,” said Wollstad.

She added that police have made certain findings that strengthen suspicion against him and that further interrogation questioning is ongoing.

What led to suspicion against the man was simply traditional police work, according to Skåne county criminal investigation department superintendent Börje Sjöholm.

“Tips from the public helped spark interest in him,” he explained.

Malmö police stopped short of calling the arrest a complete success. The following weeks and perhaps months will be filled with intensive police work.

In addition, the man is only suspected in seven of the nearly 20 shootings that police believe they have no other obvious explanation.

The suspect has only been heard once, on Saturday evening, when he denied the crimes.

The man has a license for two weapons that were found during a home raid.

“The weapons are being examined by the National Laboratory of Forensic Science [Statens kriminaltekniska laboratorium]”, said Sjöholm.

When asked why the man had a weapons permit, Sjöholm responded, “I do not want to answer about that. In this case, I do not help to contribute to unmasking the man’s identity.”

Police work is now intensively focussed on questioning, according to Sjöholm.

“This case is far from solved, but the work on the investigation has just begun,” he said.

The police also pointed out that they have continued with preventative work in Malmö through increased visibility.

During the press conference, the police detailed the circumstances behind the arrest at his home on Korsörvägen.

“It proceeded calmly. He was arrested in his home. The man has a Swedish background,” said Sjöholm.

Police added he was not previously known to police, but as Dag Andersson of the National Murder Commission pointed out, “At least he is not in our records over the last five years.”

The police and Wollstad did not disclose any details about the man’s possible motives behind the shootings, saying he is under suspicion for probable cause.

“I believe that it is probable cause, which strengthens the suspicion,” said Wollstad.

The suspect may even have committed unsolved murders dating as far back as 2003.

The announcement has spread panic in the city and the incidents bear a chilling similarity to the case of an immigrant-shooting sniper in Stockholm in the early 1990s nicknamed “Laser Man.”

Police also declined to comment on whether fortified police watches suggested that more offenders are under suspicion.

“It is probably a foregone conclusion,” said Sjöholm.

The extra security measures include an increased police presence on the streets. When asked whether people of foreign backgrounds are now safe on Malmö’s streets, Malmö city police chief Ulf Sempert replied, “We think that it has been so the whole time.”

Wollstad did not disclose the suspect’s name and refrained from officially linking him to the man Swedish press have dubbed “the new Laser Man.”

“Laser Man” was the nickname given to John Ausonius, who shot 11 people of immigrant origin, killing one, around Stockholm from August 1991 to January 1992.

Ausonius, who got his nickname by initially using a rifle equipped with a laser sight, was sentenced to life behind bars in 1994 and remains in prison.

Unlike Ausonius, the Malmö shooter does not appear to use a laser sight rifle, but police say the same gun has been used for several of the shootings, including the attack on the only known ethnic Swedish victim.

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.