The man who stabbed a young police officer to death in Schaerbeek on Thursday evening had reported himself to a police station in Evere that same morning, expressing his hatred of officers.
On Thursday (10 November) at around 10:00, the man reported himself to the police station on Square Servaes Hoedemaekers, where the police zone Evere - Schaerbeek - Saint-Josse-ten-Node is located, according to a statement from the Brussels public prosecutor's office released on Thursday night.
"He made incoherent comments, spoke of hatred towards the police and asked for psychological care," the statement read. In line with the procedure in such cases, the officers asked the magistrate for a forced admission of the man but this could not legally be done "as he was willing to undergo psychological treatment voluntarily."
Release from psychiatric unit
At the request of the magistrate on duty, the police accompanied the person to the psychiatric unit of the Saint-Luc University Hospital in Woluwé.
"The police patrol remained at the scene until the person was taken care of by the nurses," the statement noted.
However, just a few hours later, the police contacted the hospital again to check whether the person had been kept under observation. "We then found out that the person had left the hospital."
Later that evening, he stabbed a 20-year-old police officer to death and injured his colleague, who is now in mortal danger, while they were on patrol on Rue d’Aerschot in Schaerbeek at around 19:15 on Thursday evening.
What do we know so far?
After the man stabbed the police officers, backup was requested. A squad inspector rushed to the scene and shot the suspect in the leg and abdomen. The perpetrator was admitted to the hospital with gunshot wounds.
The federal prosecutor's office is investigating whether the attack is an act of terrorism. The perpetrator was included on the "radicalised" list of OCAD (the organisation responsible for threat analysis in Belgium), the federal prosecutor's office confirmed on Friday.
In the meantime, the general threat level for Belgium remains at level two and will not be raised following the attack, meaning the risk of another attack is low.
Responses to death
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo responded to the attack on Twitter, saying "our police officers risk their lives every day to ensure the safety of our citizens. Today’s tragedy demonstrates this once again."
He added that his "thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased officer," and that he hoped the hospitalised colleague "will be alright."
Meanwhile, the police union VSOA wrote on Twitter that this attack follows "decades of looking away from reality and continued impunity."
"Dear politicians, dear judiciary, you have a crushing responsibility," it said.
The Brussels Fire Brigade also responded to the attack, saying "the large family of the order and emergency services has suffered a tragic loss."
"The thoughts of all operational, technical, logistical and administrative staff of Brussels Fire Brigade, go out to the loved ones, family and colleagues of the deceased. We also wish a speedy recovery to the officer who was hurt, even while performing his duty. You can count on our unconditional support."