Police and mental health officials have a lot of questions to answer after a man who’d been committed to a psychiatric institution just a year ago, because of serious random street violence in 2019, managed to run amok again. After threatening more passersby with a knife on another street in Oslo and attacking police, a patrol car tried to run him down and then he was shot and killed.
The drama played out Tuesday morning in the busy and heavily trafficked area around Bislett Stadium in central Oslo. Police were alerted when the barefoot man, now said to be from Kazakhstan, was spotted running along a busy main street through the Bislett area wearing only blue jeans and wielding a large knife.
State broadcaster NRK and other media reported that frightened pedestrians sought shelter in shops that were just opening up for the day. One woman screamed as she was seen being chased by the man down the street Thereses Gate, while stunned local residents watched from their apartment windows above.
Police arrived quickly at the scene, as did other emergency vehicles, and officers were ordered to arm themselves, also nationwide because of initial fears of terrorist attacks. After the assailant in Oslo continued to threated passersby, lunged at a patrol car, opened one of its doors, stabbed a police officer and then ran off, he was consciously run down by a patrol car in an attempt to corner him against a building adjacent to the flower shop Bislett Blomster. Another police officer at the scene, caught in the dangerous situation, then fired shots at the man to subdue him. He later died from his wounds, and an investigation into the entire drama as it unfolded has been launched.
Newspaper VG later reported that the assailant was the same man who set off a similar incident in Oslo’s Grünerløkka area in June 2019. He was dressed on Tuesday in exactly the same way as he was nearly two-and-a-half years ago, when he stabbed a pedestrian from behind and threatened others before also being shot by police, that time, though, with an electric shock pistol that left him injured, not dead.
After undergoing psychiatric examination and a court trial, VG reported that the man (described by police as a Russian citizen at the time) was convicted in December 2020 and ordered held in a psychiatric hospital. “I’m shocked he was out on the streets again,” one of his targets in the 2019 stabbing incident told VG on Tuesday.
Another one of his victims who was stabbed in the 2019 attack, Lennon Dominguez, told VG that he had asked both court officials and police at the time whether his assailant be released “and they said ‘no,’ he’d be there (in a psychiatric institution) for many years.”
Dominguez also told VG on Tuesday that he’d received a call in September to inform him, as an earlier victim of the man, that his assailant was about to be transferred to another psychiatric institution. “They wanted to assure me that he hadn’t been released, but was in another institution,” Dominguez told VG. “My big question now is, why was he out?”
Police Inspector Grete Lien Metlid couldn’t answer that at a press conference Tuesday evening. She confirmed that he is an foreign citizen born in 1988, indicated that he has a long history with both immigration officials and police, that police now believe he is from Kazakhstan and that he has been charged port-mortem with attempted murder. That’s because, she said, of all the people and police who were in the area when he threatened them.
Metlid could also report that he had been granted permisjon (temporary leave from his mandatory psychiatric care) just yesterday, and was residing at an address in the Bislett area. “What we know is that he was out on leave from a health care insitution when this incident occurred,” Metlid said.
She added that the Norwegian state police’s internal affairs division was already investigating the entire incident that left the assailant dead and a police officier injured. She said he was recovering at a local hospital. Police were also asking for witnesses and media to supply video taken at the scene. Police were also issuing warnings against publishing any unedited video or posting it on social media, not least since it time for the assailants’ next of kin to be notified.
Police no longer think any terrorism was involved and that the assailant’s motive was tied to his mental health status. Now it appears the psychiatric officials involved in his case have some explaining to do, both to police and court officials that committed him and told people like Dominguez that he would not be set free “for many years.”
Tuesday’s drama on open streets in a central area of Oslo also raises questions from another recent incident that turned deadly in Kongsberg, in which a man with a long history of mental health illness killed five random victims while armed with a crossbow arrows and knives. Acquaintances and old friends of the man had reported their concerns about him for years, without him ever being committed or receiving adequate psychiatric health care. He currently remains in custody at a psychiatric institute, at least for now.