UPDATED: Drama played out on the streets of Oslo Tuesday after a 32-year-old Norwegian man crashed his car and then hijacked an ambulance in the city’s Torshov district. The hijacker then intentionally tried to run down several people and a baby carriage before police shot at its tires and made an arrest.
State broadcaster NRK reported that police have charged the man with attempted murder. Police also continued to seek a second suspect, as police helicopters flew over the nearby St Hanshaugen and Grünerløkka districts. They later arrested a 25-year-old woman, who had left the scene of the crashed car, and charged her with weapons possession.
Several Norwegian media outlets linked the man to right-wing extremism Tuesday afternoon, but his defense attorney later denied that he had any such ties. Police inspector Grete Lien Metlid told NRK that police were “aware” of the right-wing allegations, but added that it was “too early to conclude what the motive was” for the ambulance hijacking and the threatening and dangerous situations that followed.
Car chase with shots fired
Police said the drama began with what appeared to be a traffic accident in a roundabout on Trondheimsveien, just below the large Sinsen roundabout on the highway ringing the city. A car driven by the suspect had flipped over on its roof, leading police to believe that he had driven through the roundabout at high speed, lost control, flew over a hedge and landed upside down.
The driver was then seen crawling out of the crashed car, retrieving a large blue IKEA shopping bag and leaving the scene on foot. One witness told NRK that police and ambulances arrived quickly, and that the fleeing driver of the crashed car then literally hijacked an ambulance parked nearby with a rifle. Police confirmed the chain of events, but stressed that details remained sketchy. They later reported that three people were in the ambulance when it was seized at gunpoint. They were uninjured but badly shaken.
Police responded quickly to the highly threatening situation, calling in many more patrol cars and a helicopter, and cordoning off a large area. Police confirmed that an ambulance chase ensued, accompanied by shots being fired by both the hijacker and the police. Trams were halted and at least one local school locked its doors and kept its students indoors.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported that another ambulance was also engaged in the chase because it could track the hijacked ambulance via the medical emergency services’ GPS system. Both the pursuing ambulance and a patrol car ultimately were involved in halting the hijacker’s wild ride.
Police reported shortly after 1pm that they had regained control of the ambulance “that was stolen by an armed man.” Police also reported that they fired shots to stop the man but that he was “not critically injured.”
Police well-acquainted with the couple
Shocked witnesses told NRK that several other people were sent to hospitals including seven-month-old twins in a baby carriage that was hit by the ambulance near the Sandaker shopping center, a woman with the children, and an elderly couple who tried to get out of the way of the fleeing ambulance before police halted it. All were later reported to have suffered only minor injuries.
“Police fired shots at the ambulance, but no one was injured in that connection,” police operations leader Tor Grøttum told NRK. Witnesses told NRK that the man who stole the ambulance also fired shots. NRK reported that the ambulance crashed into a building on Krebs Gate, just a few blocks away from where it was stolen.
“He consciously drove the vehicle up on the sidewalk to hit random pedestrians,” said Johan Fredriksen, station chief for the Oslo Police. “He also tried to hit a police car.”
The man charged, who has not been identified in accordance with Norwegian press tradition, has a long police record with a history of convictions for making threats, illegal possession of weapons, narcotics, vandalism and theft. After checking a variety of addresses linked to the couple, she was later found and arrested without incident at Sandaker Center.
Police found the rifle, ‘an Uzi’ and drugs
Fredriksen said that after arresting the Norwegian man in the ambulance, “we found a rifle and an Uzi (sub-machine gun).” They also found “a considerable amount of narcotics,” but he wouldn’t describe them further “until we know what we’re dealing with.”
Asked whether the bizarre attacks were planned, Metlid noted how it was set off by the car accident at Sinsen. “We’ll find out what happened both before and after that,” Metlid said. The police intelligence agency PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) has been brought into the case but could not yet determine whether it amounted to a terrorist attack on civilians.
The incident stunned the largely residential area of Torshov, which borders a large park and features vintage apartment buildings built in the early 1900s. A local school and day care center kept their children and students indoors during the police operation.