Armin Saarits, senior police analyst at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), told BNS on Thursday that incidents in which a police officer fires shots from a firearm to fend off an attack are scarce.
“A firearm is an extreme means that is used when there is an immediate threat to someone’s life,” Saarits explained.
In most cases, service weapons are discharged when firing warning shots, which are fired into the air or the ground; incidents in which a firearm is used to stop a motor vehicle are also more common.
Police used a firearm to stop an attack on one occasion each in 2016 and 2015. In 2014, no such cases were registered, while in 2013 and 2012, the police used a firearm to stop an attack on two and three occasions, respectively.
Tuesday morning’s shooting took place after police had been alerted that a barefoot man was walking around Tallinn’s Old Town brandishing two knives. A patrol was on location ten minutes after the first emergency call was received just past 11 a.m. Officers confronted the man in Freedom Square, but he refused to put down a knife he was holding despite repeated orders from the police.
When the man started toward the officers, they first fired three warning shots into the air before firing at him and hitting him in the chest. The man was immediately transported to the hospital, where he succummbed to his injuries a short time later.
Tuesday’s fatality marked the second time in five years that an attacker died after being shot by the police. The previous such case was in Narva in 2012, where an officer acting in self-defense shot a man suspected of having previously killed his wife as he attacked law enforcement officers.