Charges expanded in bomb scare bluff

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UPDATED: The security guard who set off a major bomb hoax in Oslo and even shot himself in the process this week now faces more charges and prison for at least the next four weeks. His defense attorney claims the guard for the Nokas security firm is “in deep despair” and regrets the trouble he caused.

Prosecutors are now filing expanded charges against the guard for making threats, sending out a false emergency call for help and making false charges of his own against alleged assailants. They want him held in remand custody for four weeks while they continue their investigation.

Trygve Staff, defense attorney for the guard who appeared at his custody hearing on Friday, earlier told reporters that his client panicked after having “an accident” with his own gun while on duty late Tuesday night, and was afraid he’d be fired. He claims that in turn set off the chain of events that led to the bomb scare and major police response on Wednesday.

Regrets lying to police
Staff told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday that the guard was out on patrol during a nighttime shift on the University of Oslo campus when he wanted to try shooting a so-called “starter’s pistol” he had with him. Things went wrong and he wound up wounding himself, Staff said.

“He considered calling a doctor but thought the doctor would see that these were shooting injuries and he’d get in trouble,” Staff told Aftenposten. “So he called the duty desk at Nokas and asked for help. Instead of saying he’d shot himself, he said others had shot at him.” Police were summoned and launched a manhunt for the guard’s alleged assailants while the guard was taken to a local hospital.

The police then found a bomb-like device at the scene of the alleged shooting, near the university’s physics building, and that set off the full-scale alarm that resulted in a massive police operation that cordoned off large areas of the university’s campus. The suspicious object was later found to be a hoax, intended to “create fear,” according to police. The security guard was later charged with making false statements by initially saying he’d been shot. He admitted he’d shot himself and placed the bomb-like object.

Staff wouldn’t say how the guard’s new version of events jibes with his confession to placing the object that set off the bomb scare. “As far as I know, he hasn’t been charged for that,” Staff told Aftenposten. “That’s the comment I have on that.” He added that his client is in “deep despair” and strongly regrets that he didn’t tell the police the truth about the shooting.

Psychological examination looms
Police had said that the charges against the security guard, who hasn’t been publicly identified in line with Norwegian media policy, could be expanded and they were. Police are also investigating whether two earlier incidents involving the same security guard, in which he’d claimed to have been attacked by unknown assailants, were also bluffs. Staff told Aftenposten that “my client says they were real.”

Police say they will ask for a “routine judicial evaluation” of the man, regarding his state of mind and whether he’s capable of standing trial. “It can’t be ruled out that a strong need for attention is behind these events, but there can be many reasons for such a need,” Anne-Kari Torgalsbøen of the institute for psychology at the University of Oslo, told Aftenposten. She said it would be “natural” to check for the possibility of psychological problems.

Nokas had earlier described the man as a long-term employee but Aftenposten reported that he only started working for Nokas after it acquired the security firm G4S in 2013. The man was a summer intern at the time and Nokas kept him on as a guard at the University of Oslo. In October of that year he reported he’d been stabbed while on duty and his wound required several stitches. Police never found his assailants. In November of last year he reported being shot with an electric shock pistol by someone whom he said also tried to steal his keys and strangle him. Police also ended up having to drop their investigation for lack of leads and evidence.

Guards’ credibility and training questioned
Nokas officials say they had no reason to suspect their employee was lying about those incidents at the time. Now he has confessed to lying about Tuesday’s shooting and bomb scare so the police intend to reopen the earlier cases.

Questions were rising on Friday over the short training periods required for security guards and how they’re followed up by their employers. Leonarda Jupa, course administrator at one of the private academies used by security firms, said cases like that involving the Nokas guard are “extremely seldom” in the industry and noted that they can damage the credibility of security guards’ reliability and reputations.

And training periods are brief. “If you’re effective, you can become a security guard in a month,” Jupa told NRK. She said the law requires 15 hours of theory, 30 hours of practice work and 50 more hours of theory at a third level of training.

Jarle Ramskjær, marketing and communications director for the large firm Securitas, claimed the security branch had become much more professional during the past 10 to 15 years and insisted that guards had “comprehensive training and education, and we follow them up closely.” He said he believed the public had “a high degree of confidence in us, and respects and recognizes the job we do every day.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund