Denmark gunman had criminal past, gang ties

A police investigator works at the scene of Saturday’s shooting at a free speech event in Copenhagen, Sunday.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The suspected gunman killed by police after shooting attacks against a free speech event and outside a Copenhagen synagogue was 22 years old and had a background in criminal gangs, police said Sunday.

The suspect was born in Denmark and had a criminal record, including violence and weapons offenses, Copenhagen police said in a statement. They didn’t release his name.

A Danish film maker attending a panel discussion on blasphemy was killed in the shooting Saturday at the free-speech event and a member of the Scandinavian country’s Jewish community was killed outside the synagogue. Five police officers were also wounded in the shootings.

Police believe the suspect carried out both shootings alone but were investigating whether he had received help from others.

“Denmark has been hit by terror,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said. “We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator’s actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech.”

Jens Madsen, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET, said investigators believe the gunman was inspired by Islamic radicalism.

“PET is working on a theory that the perpetrator could have been inspired by the events in Paris. He could also have been inspired by material sent out by (the Islamic State group) and others,” Madsen said.

Islamic radicals carried out a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in Paris last month, followed by an attack on Jews at a kosher grocery store, taking the lives of 17 victims.

Earlier Sunday, at least two people with handcuffs were taken out by police from an Internet cafe in Copenhagen, Danish media reported.

The Danish Film Institute said the 55-year-old man killed at the free speech event was documentary filmmaker Finn Noergaard.

The institute’s chief Henrik Bo Nielsen said he was shocked and angry to find out Noergaard was gunned down while attending a discussion on art and free speech.

Noergaard directed and produced documentaries for Danish television, including the 2004 “Boomerang boy” about an Australian boy’s dreams to become a world boomerang champion and the 2008 “Le Le” about Vietnamese immigrants in Denmark.

Denmark’s Chief Rabbi, Jair Melchior, identified the Jewish victim as Dan Uzan, 37, a longtime security guard for the 7,000-strong community. He was guarding a building behind the synagogue during a bat mitzvah when he was shot in the head. Two police officers who were there were slightly wounded. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the attack and said his government plans to encourage a “massive immigration” of Jews from Europe.

“Again, Jews were murdered on European soil just because they were Jews,” Netanyahu said at the start of his Cabinet meeting Sunday.