Iceland's Police Had Their First Fatal Shooting Ever

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Iceland's police officers shot and killed an armed suspect for the first time in their nation's history on Monday morning in the eastern part of Reykjavík. According to the BBC, the police tried to subdue the man, a 59-year-old, with a tear-gas canister. When that didn't work, two officers entered the apartment where the man was holed up. The second officer shot the gunman after he'd already shot and injured two officers, shooting one in his helmet. Iceland's National Police Commissioner, Haraldur Johannessen, said during a press conference that the incident "has no precedent in this country."

Armed gun men aren't the norm, and Iceland's police officers only started carrying guns in 2011, according to the Iceland Review. And while this isn't the first shooter in Iceland, or the first time the police fired at one, this is the first time a gunman has died by police fire in Iceland. Ever.

Which is why it's the top story on all of the major Iceland news outlets. RÚV, the state-owned television station, produced a grisly video of police investigating the crime scene. It's a minute of police officers examining shell casings mixed with curious onlookers and long streaks of bright red blood on the pavement. And as reported by Morgunblaðið, a local church is offering counseling to residents of the apartment complex where the shooting took place.

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The officers are under review, and the state prosecutor is investigating why the man began firing and whether the officers acted appropriately. Several outlets also noted that the officers involved in the incident — approximately 15 to 20 police officers, along with special forces reinforcements, were called on to disarm the gun man according to Morgunblaðið — also received counseling. The police department even apologized to the suspect's family. "Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man," Johannessen said. 

While more common in America, this is a situation that isn't as routine as some might think. In the U.S., due to the number of fatal police shooting, stories tend get coverage when police shoot an unarmed victim or innocent bystanders. For instance, in 2011 a Chicago police officer shot an unarmed man 16 times and wasn't charged. Iceland, which has a population of just over 322,000 people, has an average of two murders a year, or 0.6 per 100,000 people. America's murder rate in 2011 was 4.7 per 100,000

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.