Icelandic Police Have Only Shot And Killed One Man

“There never was a good war, or a bad peace.” —Benjamin Franklin

In A Nutshell

In America, police have long been accused of being trigger-happy and prone to brutality. In some instances, dozens of bullets are fired at a single suspect. Many other countries boast police forces which only use firearms as a grim last resort. Most telling of these instances comes from Iceland, when on December 2, 2013, police shot a man dead—for the first time in the nation’s history.

The Whole Bushel

Iceland is an isolated island nation with a population of approximately 320,000 people, making it the most sparsely populated of European countries (other than the city-states). According to the Global Peace Index, which examines a host of different factors including terrorist incidents, violent crimes, and military expenditures, Europe is the safest continent and Iceland is the most peaceful country in the entire world, despite a high rate of gun ownership.

Iceland stands in stark contrast to much of the rest of the world. In Germany in 2011, police fired a total of 85 bullets. Of those, 49 were warning shots, and only six people were killed in total. In 2012, police in New York City (rated one of the safest urban areas in America) shot 16 people to death. In 2013, Iceland joined in their ranks when officers were forced to gun down an armed man in the capital city of Reykjavík. It was the first time in the history of Iceland there had ever been a fatal police shooting.

In the early morning hours of December 2, 2013, terrified neighbors summoned police to the home of a 59-year-old man discharging his shotgun at cars from the window of his apartment. Two officers that attempted to enter the premises were shot. When a tear gas canister thrown through a window failed to subdue the suspect, a special forces unit was dispatched. They fired on the man, wounding him. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died shortly thereafter. There was much empathy in the wake of the incident; Icelandic Police Chief Haraldur Johannessen told reporters “Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man.”

Show Me The Proof

LA Times: First fatal shooting by police mars Iceland’s serene history
NY Times: Report Documents a Rise in Fatal Shootings by New York City’s Police Officers
NBC News: German police fired just 85 bullets total in 2011
Vision of Humanity: 2013 Global Peace Index findings