A man with Down’s Syndrome has been shot dead by Swedish police after running away from home in the middle of the night carrying a toy gun.
Eric Torell, 20, who was autistic and was described by his family as being severely disabled, was fatally shot by police who erroneously believed he was carrying a real weapon in the early hours of Thursday morning in downtown Stockholm.
Police officers say Mr Torell acted “threateningly” after responding to reports of a man showing a gun to residents at around 4am local time in the district of Vasastan.
He died of his injuries after being shot in the stomach. One witness, who was awoken by the sound of several gunshots, said they heard police shouting at someone to lay down his weapon and lie on the ground.
Mr Torell had been staying with his father when he wandered out of his home with the toy gun his mother, Katarina Söderber, said looked like a “submachine gun”.
“He got it as a gift. It looked a little like a submachine gun. Until now it was just thrown in a pile of toys,” Ms Söderber told Swedish newspaper Expressen.
She reacted angrily to the suggestion her son may have acted threateningly, describing her son as “the world’s sweetest and most lovable person”, adding he could only say a few words like ‘mum’ due to his speech difficulties.
Ms Söderber compared her son to “being like a three-year-old”, adding he had been reported missing after leaving home in the night.
“It’s impossible to understand. He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” she said [translated].
Ms Söderber added that her son had left home unannounced on previous occasions but had always returned.
His father, Rickard Torell, told Expressen he went out to search for his son when he realised he was missing.
Mr Torell paid tribute to his son who he described as the “friendliest and most loving person in the world”.
Sweden’s Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed a routine preliminary investigation into possible police misconduct has been launched.
Police said they would not speculate on the case until the investigation is complete. Stockholm police chief Ulf Johansson called the shooting “a terrible event.”
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