Police in Iceland have shot and killed a gunman, marking the first time armed police have killed anyone in the country’s modern history.
Iceland has a population of around 320,000 and a low crime rate, and gun violence is extremely rare. Its regular police force does not carry firearms – the only officers permitted to carry firearms are on a special force called the Viking Squad.
Officers were called to the Reykjavik suburb of Arbaer early Monday when a man was reported to be firing a shotgun at cars from his apartment window.
Tear gas canisters were fired through the broken windows in an attempt to subdue the shooter. When that failed, he was shot after firing at special forces police entering the building. Two policemen were shot when trying to enter the gunman’s apartment – one in the face and the other in the hand.
Reykjavik Metropolitan Police Commissioner Stefan Eiriksson explained the decision to use armed forces:
“All available members of the police force were deployed, and they tried to subdue him, but it was not successful. The man began to shoot out the window of the apartment and it was decided to take action.”
The 59-year-old gunman, whose identity has not been released, died at an area hospital.
Iceland’s crime rate is one of the lowest in the world despite widespread gun ownership. There are about 90,000 guns registered among Iceland’s 315,000 people, making it 15th in the world in per capita gun ownership, GunPolicy.org reports. Acquiring a gun in Iceland is not an easy process -steps to gun ownership include a medical examination and a written test.
Icelandic police chief Haraldur Johannessen said the incident was unprecedented.
“Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man,” he told reporters.
Counseling is being provided to the special forces team.
An investigation into the conduct of the police is underway. The motive of the gunman is not known at this time.
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