Man with Down's syndrome carrying toy gun shot dead by police in Sweden

Eric Torell, 20, killed in Stockholm after officers thought plastic firearm was real

Tom Barnes
Friday 03 August 2018 10:40 BST
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Eric Torell was shot dead by police in Stockholm after they deemed he was acting in a "threatening" manner
Eric Torell was shot dead by police in Stockholm after they deemed he was acting in a "threatening" manner (Getty)

A young man with Down’s syndrome was shot dead by Swedish police after they mistook the toy gun he was carrying for a genuine firearm.

Officers are thought to have opened fire on Eric Torell, 20, in the Vasastan district of Stockholm on Thursday morning.

His father, Rickard Torell, said Eric had disappeared home overnight and taken a plastic replica gun with him from a pile of toys.

“I woke up because Eric was gone,” Mr Torell told Expressen newspaper: “I went out and looked for him. I saw police cars on the street.”

“Three police officers shot him in his stomach.”

Police had been called after Eric reportedly showed the small toy gun to neighbours, who contacted authorities believing it was real.

Local media reports stated three police officers had shot him in the stomach after attending the incident. He was taken to hospital, but later died from his injuries.

The Swedish Police Authority said officers had opened fire after they deemed the situation “threatening”.

Eric’s mother, Katarina Söderberg, described her son as “wonderful” and “the world’s most loving person”.

She added he had suffered from autism as well as Down’s syndrome and had the mental age of a three-year-old, struggling with speech and usually only using the word “mum”.

“We are completely destroyed, we are in shock. I cannot believe it's true,” Ms Söderberg told Stockholm-based newspaper Aftonbladet.

“Of course, it was very unfortunate that he had [the gun] for some reason.

“But why do you have to kill him, why not shoot him in the foot? And from three policemen? You cannot be shot by a piece of plastic.”

Stockholm regional police chief, Ulf Johansson, said the special prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation into possible police misconduct over the incident.

“On Thursday, a young man was killed in a police intervention in central Stockholm,” he added. “It's a terrible event and my thoughts go to his family and relatives.

“It is very tragic for all involved," he said, adding he respected what happened has caused "so much upset".

“But I still want to mention, from experience, that very difficult decisions in unclear and hard-pressed situations sometimes need to be taken in a few seconds and happen on initial evaluations.

“With all respect for the family of the deceased, my thoughts obviously also go to the police officers who were involved in this event.”

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