A 37-year-old man was charged on Thursday in connection with a bow-and-arrow rampage in a small town in Norway that killed five people, and the police said they had been in contact with him in the past over concerns that he had been radicalized.
Four women and one man were killed in the assault, which took place on Wednesday evening. The attacker, who escaped an initial confrontation with the police, unleashed a volley of arrows at apparent strangers.
“We have previously been in contact with him regarding worries about radicalization,” Ole Bredrup Saeverud, the regional police chief, said of the suspect. He said that the man was a convert to Islam, but did not offer further details or speculate on the motive.
The police chief said that the last time concerns about the man’s radicalization had been brought to the police’s attention was last year, but he did not say who had contacted them with those concerns. They said only that the police had followed up on multiple reports.
Asked whether the man might have been motivated by extreme religious ideology, he added, “We don’t know that, but it’s natural to ask the question.”
Fredrik Neumann, the suspect’s court-appointed lawyer, said in an interview that the man was cooperating with the authorities and was undergoing a mental health evaluation. He said the man, whose mother is Danish father is Norwegian, would appear before a judge on Friday, where details of the charges against him would be made public.
The victims on Wednesday were age 50 to 70, Mr. Saeverud said, and two people injured in the attack are expected to survive.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, is a Danish citizen who lived in the town, officials said on Thursday. His court-appointed lawyer said that he was cooperating with the authorities.
It was the worst mass killing in Norway since 2011, when a far-right extremist killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a camp.
On Thursday, the police offered more details about the attack, which Prime Minister Erna Solberg called “terrifying.”
The first call to the police came at 6:12 p.m., with witnesses describing a scene of chaos and unprovoked violence at a supermarket in the town, Kongsberg, a former silver mining village.
One woman told the local news outlet TV2 that she had seen people hiding from a man standing on a street corner with “arrows in a quiver on his shoulder and a bow in his hand.” As he shot the arrows, she said, people ran for their lives.
Only six minutes after the first call came into police, officers confronted the attacker. He fired arrows at the officers and escaped.
At one point, the attacker crossed a bridge spanning the Numedalslagen River and cut through the town, a bucolic area that serves as an escape for people seeking refuge from the bustle of Oslo, about 50 miles away.
As he made his way through the town, he attack people seemingly at random, according to the police. One of the injured was an off-duty police officer, and a photo of him with an arrow in his back circulated widely online.
The police on Thursday asked the public to “please stop sharing photos,” saying it is “unwise and disrespectful.”
The police said the attacker had used a second weapon in the rampage, though they did not offer further details. But it was the arrows that marked the trail of devastation.
At 6:47 p.m., the police detained the suspect — 34 minutes after the first reports of violence.
A police lawyer, Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, told TV2 that the suspect had lived in the town for several years.
Murder is rare in Norway. In a country with a population of just over five million, there were 31 murders last year, most involving people who knew each other.
Still, the nation has yet to fully reckon with the trauma of devastating 2011 mass killing.
The Norwegian authorities have expressed concern that not enough is being done to root out right-wing extremism, especially among young people. In July, analysts with the country’s intelligence services warned that a decade after the 2011 attack, there are young men and boys who idolize the gunman.