Iceland grieves after police shoot and kill a man for the first time in its history

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Marco Werman: Here's a headline you won't read every day in Iceland: "Iceland police shoot man dead." In fact, that's a first time the headline has been written since Iceland became a republic in 1944. Why? Well, that's the obvious question. Thora Arnorsdottir is a senior reporter at RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. So we know that a man in the capital, Reykjavik, was shot by police yesterday, Thora. Describe, first of all, what happened. Why did the police respond to this incident? Thora Arnorsdottir: Well, as it turns out, this man, a 59-year old, had severe psychiatric problems for many years. He had been in and out of hospitals, he had paranoia, and the neighbors started hearing shots, and obviously called the police, which arrived. So they decide to rush in and he shoots at the police officers, and they responded. Werman: I guess the investigation must now be looking at this 59-year old victim, as well as the policemen looking into their own ranks and what they did? Arnorsdottir: Definitely. The nation was in shock. This does not happen in our country. I mean, everyone had their phones up and they were recording, they were shouting, screaming. And every other person would say, "this is like an American film, what is going on?" Werman: An American film. Arnorsdottir: An American film, exactly, yes. Werman: I've gotta say, you sound pretty shook up yourself, Thora, and you're a reporter. Arnorsdottir: Absolutely. Also because, I mean, there are a lot of questions still. Why didn't they try to negotiate, why didn't they call someone from his family just to know who is this, why is he acting like this. So there are a lot of questions there. We will obviously not want our police force to have shot a man if it wasn't absolutely, absolutely necessary, because they don't carry weapons. Werman: Why not? Arnorsdottir: Because we don't want them to. The nation doesn't want their police force to carry weapons. That's, it's threatening, it's dangerous. That's just how it is, but obviously we must be ready to face difficult situations. So there is a special force that can be called upon when something happens, but it has never, ever come to this. Werman: One interesting thing, Thora, is that Iceland ranks, per capita for gun possession, 15th in the world. So what is going on there that there are a lot of guns, but violent crime is low? Arnorsdottir: First and foremost, it's culture. Guns are used to go hunting as a sport, but you never see a gun. So it's just not a part of our culture, yet. I mean, we've been fighting international crime as well. We have part of the Eastern European Mafia stepping into Iceland, and drug trafficking, but I mean, you don't see anyone carry a weapon. Werman: Thora, you said earlier just how shocked the nation of Iceland is by this incident yesterday. One this that struck a lot of people, here, is that police... they actually apologized to the man's family. How are police themselves dealing with this? Arnorsdottir: They're getting counseling, and I think, actually, it's respectful of the police to apologize to the victim's family. Because obviously they're sorry. No one wants to take another person's life. Not when you're a policeman, and not in any other circumstances. Werman: I mean, the fact that the neighbors next to this man, this victim yesterday, were saying how this is like an American movie. Is there a feeling, in Iceland, that this peace that you've been living through is about to change? Arnorsdottir: I don't know. There's always a first. One thinks, will this be slowly normalized? I really hope that it won't. A part of the great thing about living in this country is that you can enter Parliament, and the only thing that they ask you to do is to turn off your phone so you won't disturb the Parliamentarians while they're talking. I mean, we do not have armed guards following our prime minister or president. That's a part of the great thing of living in a peaceful society, we do not want to change that. Werman: Thora Arnorsdottir, senior reporter at the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RUV. Thanks very much for talking to us. Arnorsdottir: Thank you, Marco.