Apartment under siege by Icelandic police for six hours turns out to be empty

By Bjarki Ármannsson
Special forces were called out because of gunshot reports.
Special forces were called out because of gunshot reports. Vísir/Vilhelm
Over a hundred people were evacuated from an apartment building in Kópavogur, Iceland‘s second biggest town, Tuesday evening after reports of gunshots from the balcony of an apartment. During a six hour long operation, police surrounded the apartment and tried to contact the gunman before discovering, in strange turn of events, that the apartment was empty.

The Icelandic police force and special forces set up a perimeter around the building around 4 pm local time. Ambulances arrived on the scene and were put on standby and two local elementary schools were evacuated and closed.

Police placed a sniper outside the building.Vísir/Vilhelm
Just before 5 pm, special forces made their way into the apartment building, carrying a riot shield and believed to have a negotiator with them. A police sniper was also placed on a hill near the building.

Icelandic media followed the siege closely, broadcasting live from the scene during the evening news. At around six pm, it was reported that the police‘s attempts to contact the gunman, now believed to be alone in his apartment, had been in vain.

Meanwhile, residents told Vísir news of used shotgun shells found around the building. One resident who would not leave his name claimed to have found used shells in the building‘s back yard a few days before the siege.

Aron Daníel Hjartarson heard a loud bang while painting a fence near the apartment.Vísir
Vísir also interviewed a young man who had been painting a fence nearby and heard a loud bang. He says police arrived twenty minutes later, told him to leave the area and that a gunshot had been fired right under his nose.

Tensions were high, not least because of the striking similarities between the siege in Kópavogur and the siege on an apartment in Hraunbær in Reykjavík two years ago. There, a mentally ill man fired shots from his apartment in the middle of the night and a long police operation ended with the man shot and killed. He was the first man in Icelandic history to be killed by police.

Police eventually entered the apartment at around 9 pm and, bizarrely, found it to be completely empty. In a statement issued after the siege ended, police say it is now not known whether the bangs heard in the afternoon were gunshots or not. They did however find weapons and ammunition in the apartment, the statement said.

Furthermore, police told Vísir news late last night that the man who lives in the apartment has not been home for a while. Police say they have spoken to the man yesterday but won‘t give up his whereabouts. 

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