COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: Danish police believe a shopping mall shooting that left three people dead and four seriously injured was not terrorism-related. They said on Monday the shooter acted alone and appears to have selected his victims at random.
Copenhagen Police Chief Inspector Søren Thomassen said the victims – a 17-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl, both Danish and a 47-year-old Russian – were killed when the shooter opened the fire on Sunday afternoon at Field’s shopping centre, one of the largest in Scandinavia.
Four other people – two Danish citizens and two Swedes – were treated for gunshot wounds and were in critical but stable condition, Thomassen said. Several other people were lightly injured as they fled the mall, he added. Some 31 ambulances responded to the emergency, relief officials said.
Thomassen said police had no indication anyone had helped the shooter, identified as a 22-year-old Dane. He said while the motive was unclear, there was no suggestion of terrorism and the suspect would be arraigned later Monday on preliminary murder charges.
In Denmark, preliminary charges are a step below formal charges, but allow the authorities to keep criminal suspects in custody during an investigation.
“There is nothing in our investigation, or the documents we have reviewed, or the things we have found, or the witness statements we have obtained, that can prove that this is an act of terrorism,” he said.
Police said they seized a rifle from the suspect who was also carrying a knife. “We also know he had access to a gun,” Thomassen said, adding “I won’t comment further on that now.”
He confirmed the suspect was known to mental health services but provided no further information.
Danish broadcaster TV2 released a grainy photo of the alleged shooter, a man wearing knee-length shorts, a vest or sleeveless shirt and holding what appeared to be a gun in his right hand.
“He seemed very violent and angry,” eyewitness Mahdi Al-Wazni told TV2. “He spoke to me and told me that (the gun) wasn’t real because I was filming it. He seemed very proud of what he was doing.
Thomassen said that alongside the rifle the suspect had while in custody, “we also know that he had access to a firearm and was carrying a knife.”
Footage from the scene showed people running out of the mall in a panic. After the shooting, a large contingent of heavily armed police patrolled the area, with several fire department vehicles also parked outside the mall.
“It’s pure terror. It’s awful,” said Hans Christian Stoltz, a 53-year-old computer consultant, who was taking his daughters to see Harry Styles perform at a concert scheduled for Sunday night near the mall. “You might wonder how a person can do this to another human being, but it’s beyond… beyond anything possible.”
The concert was canceled due to the shooting.
On Snapchat, Styles wrote, “My team and I are praying for everyone involved in the Copenhagen mall shooting. I’m shocked. I love H.”
It was the worst Denmark gun attack since February 2015, when a 22-year-old man was killed in a shootout with police after going on a shooting spree in the capital that left two dead and five officers injured. This attack was allegedly motivated by Islamic extremism.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called Sunday’s shooting a “cruel attack”.
“It’s the world upside down. Heartbreaking. Pointless,” she said. “Our beautiful and usually so safe capital was changed in a split second.”
The multi-story Field mall is on the outskirts of Copenhagen, directly across from a metro station for a line that connects the city center to the international airport. A major highway also passes by the mall.
The shooting came a week after a mass shooting in neighboring Norway, where police said an Iranian-Norwegian opened fire at an LGBTQ festival, killing two people and injuring more than 20.