For the first time in Iceland’s modern history, police carried out a fatal shooting early Monday during an exchange of gunfire with a man reported to be firing at cars from his apartment window.
Two police officers were wounded in the shootout that followed a 5 a.m. emergency call from neighbors, Euronews quoted an Icelandic news agency as reporting. The 59-year-old victim from eastern Reykjavik, who wasn’t immediately identified, was taken to an area hospital where he died of his wounds.
“Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man,” Icelandic Police Chief Haraldur Johannessen told reporters in Reykjavik, according to the BBC.
An investigation has been ordered of the rare use of firearms by police, reported to be the first fatality in the more than 200 years since the former Viking stronghold began its drive for independence from Denmark. Police are generally unarmed in Iceland except for the special forces unit that provided backup in Monday’s incident, BBC said.
The British broadcaster referred to its May report on Iceland’s crime rate, one of the lowest in the world despite widespread gun ownership. There are about 90,000 guns registered among Iceland’s 315,000 people, making it 15th in the world in per capita gun ownership, GunPolicy.org reports.
The author-researcher of the BBC crime study, Andrew Clark of Boston’s Suffolk University Law School, attributed the low incidence of violent crime in Iceland to the absence of class distinctions in a country where 97% identify themselves as middle class.
Clark also noted that, unlike in the United States, acquiring a gun involves a more rigorous system of checks, including a medical examination of the applicant and a written test.