Relative Says Norway Suspect Is 'Seriously Mentally Ill'

Espen Andersen Braathen may end up in a hospital instead of a prison
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2021 7:35 AM CDT
Bow-and-Arrow Suspect Transferred to Medical Care
Flowers and candles are placed at the scene of an attack on the square, in Kongsberg, Norway, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.   (Terje Bendiksby/NTB via AP)

Authorities in Norway are now describing Wednesday's bow-and-arrow mass shooting as an apparent terror attack—but it's not clear whether the suspect will be held criminally responsible. Prosecutors say 37-year-old Danish citizen Espen Andersen Braathen has been transferred to the care of medical authorities amid concerns over his mental health, the Guardian reports. Braathen, described by authorities as a convert to Islam who had previously been flagged for possible radicalization, "has been in and out of the health system for some time," says Hans Sverre Sjovold, head of Norway's PST security service.

A relative told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that Braathen is mentally ill and has been threatening family members for years. "This is about a person who is seriously mentally ill and who became marginalized from adolescence," the relative said. Authorities say experts will try to determine whether he was sane at the time of the attack, the AP reports. If they decided he wasn't, he will likely be sentenced to compulsory mental health care instead of prison.

Police say Braathen has confessed to killing five people in the attack in Kongsberg, a quiet town west of Oslo. Braathen has "told us that he has killed them and he has explained himself in detail about what happened," police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen tells Reuters. She says some of the victims were killed inside their homes during a rampage that lasted around 30 minutes. She says it's not clear whether "any particular situation" triggered the attack. A hearing Friday will determine how long Braathen can be detained. (Read more Norway stories.)

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