Oslo, Norway, Jul 27: A TV cameraman who captured the only known images of the gunman during his shooting rampage at a political youth camp in Norway says he had no idea at the time that the killer was in his viewfinder.
Marius Arnesen, a cameraman for Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, was in a helicopter hovering more than 600 feet (200 meters) over Utoya island, where panicked youth were being massacred as they fled into the water on Friday.
At the time, Arnesen says, he didn't realize the scale of the disaster, in which at least 68 people were mortally wounded.
“We were circling the island taking shots of the island,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “It looked empty, so at first I thought police had evacuated the island. Then we saw people swimming and floating in the water. And then we started slowly realizing what was going on.”
He zoomed in on a part of the island where people had jumped into the water.
“It's really hard to hold a camera still and get the framing right. So I just zoomed in and tried to hold it still for 3 seconds,” Arnesen said.
His images show a man in dark clothing surrounded by bodies piled up on the shore and in the water. NRK released them to other media after blurring out the victims so they could not be identified.
As the helicopter left to refuel, Arnesen still wasn't quite sure what was on his tape, he said.
It wasn't until the next morning, when NRK editors were going through his images frame by frame, that they realized they had video of Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old Norwegian who has confessed to the shooting and a bombing hours earlier in Oslo's government district.
“I got a call saying, ‘just to let you know you've captured the killer,”' Arnesen said.
The fact that the NRK helicopter arrived before the police SWAT team that arrested Breivik has sparked criticism over the police response. Relatives of people on the island have also questioned whether the NRK helicopter put people in graver danger.
Marianne Bremnes, whose 16-year-old daughter Julie was cowering on the island during the shooting, says her daughter came out of her hiding place “and waved her pink rain jacket” because she thought the helicopter was there to rescue her.
“If she had been at the wrong spot she would have been killed, since the police had not arrived yet and the gunman was not arrested,” Bremnes said by telephone from Harstad in northern Norway on Wednesday. She said her daughter survived the massacre but lost five of her friends.
“In my opinion, the press should have stayed away until the police arrived so that they could know what was going on,” Bremnes said. “There should be some ethical guidelines for how they operate, although I understand the press has an important role to play.”
Arnesen said thoughts were running through his mind about ways to help.
“I think you always think those thoughts and then somewhere in your mind you realize it's impossible,” he said. “There was nowhere we could land with the helicopter—we knew there was a gunman walking around there. You just try to focus on your job.” AP