Down syndrome man with toy gun shot dead by police in Sweden

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(CNN)A 20-year-old man with Down syndrome was carrying a toy gun when he was shot dead by Swedish police in Stockholm on Thursday, according to CNN affiliate Expressen.

Eric Torell was diagnosed with both autism and Down syndrome and could not verbally communicate, his mother told Expressen.

Torell’s family reported him missing after he ran away from home, something he had been known to do before. He had a plastic toy gun with him, which “looked a little like a submachine gun” and was given to him as a gift, said his mother, Katarina Söderberg.

Eric Torell's mother, Katarina Söderberg, and older sister, Elsa.

Early Thursday morning, the police received reports of a person with a gun in the Vasastan district. After arriving on the scene, they shouted at Torell to “lay down his weapon and lie on the ground,” an eyewitness told Expressen.

Police officers are then believed to have fired at Torell, according to Expressen. Torell was taken to the hospital, but could not be saved.

When Söderberg was first notified of her son’s death, she said: “There’s got to be a mix-up.”

She was “totally, totally devastated,” she told reporters in her home, as she showed them photos of Torell. “I couldn’t understand that it was true, I still can’t believe that it is true.”

Eric Torell was diagnosed with autism and Down syndrome.

She and Eric’s older sister, Elsa, were nearly paralyzed by the news, Söderberg said. Why, she asked, did the police officers have to shoot? And why did it have to be a fatal shot, instead of one to the leg?

“Even if he made a mistake, even if he went outside with a pistol thing, a toy gun, do they have to shoot him dead because of that? It was light outside,” his mother said.

“You can see a mile away that he’s got Down syndrome. It can’t be missed,” she said. “A ‘threatening man’? He’s like a 3-year-old.”

The prosecutor’s office is investigating possible police misconduct, Expressen reported.
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