Police are still trying to determine if the shootings are connected

By Alexandra Zaslow
February 14, 2015 01:00 PM
Janus Engel/Polfoto/AP

One person was killed and two police officers were wounded in a shooting near of a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Saturday.

The New York Times reports that one person, identified as security guard Dan Uzan, was fatally shot. The lone gunman was eventually killed after he opened fire on police at a nearby train station.

AFP reports that the gunman has been identified as Omar El-Hussein. Police told the Associated Press that the 22-year-old has a background in criminal gangs.

About 80 people were reportedly inside the synagogue at the time of the shooting as they were celebrating a bat mitzvah.

The news came just hours after one person was killed and three police officers were wounded during a seminar about cartoonists and drawing blasphemous images. The event was called “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression.”

The target of the earlier shooting may have been Lars Vilks, who is known for his controversial caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Dennis Meyhoff Brink, a satire researcher who was attending the discussion, told CNN that he heard about 30 shots and some yelling in a foreign language around 3:30 p.m. local time.

“Everybody, of course, panicked in the room and tried to run,” Brink said. “We were just hiding and hoping for the best.”

Security personnel took the founder of the Lars Vilks Committee, Helle Merete Brix, and others to safe areas. Brix and Vilks held hands in a storage room together until police told them it was safe to come out.

“We have never taken any chances,” Brix told CNN. “What we have so much been frightened would happen happened tonight.”

The discussion resumed after the shooting even though everyone from the event was bused to a local police station.

The Copenhagen shootings come one month after an attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead in Paris. The paper was targeted by Muslim extremists who were angered that they featured drawings of Mohammed, which is forbidden in Islam.

The Charlie Hedbo attacks and a subsequent shooting at a kosher supermarket in Paris sparked mass protests across the globe.

“Everything points to the shooting in Oesterbro [being] a political assassination and therefore a terror attack,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said.

Police believe that the gunman they killed was behind both attacks.

“We have some difficult days ahead,” the Prime Minister said. “But in Denmark, we will never bow to violence.”

The White House responded to the shootings through a statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

“The United States condemns today s deplorable shooting in Copenhagen,” the statement said. “We offer our condolences to the loved ones of the deceased victim, and our thoughts are with those wounded in this attack. We have been in close contact with our Danish counterparts and stand ready to lend any assistance necessary to the investigation.”