The view from the basement bar after the shooting. (Christian Svane Mellbye)
A witness to the deadly mass shooting outside a queer nightclub has recalled the moment he was trapped inside amid gunfire in Oslo, Norway.
At 1:14am local time on Saturday (25 June), a 42-year-old man opened fire in the Norwegian capital’s popular nightlife district.
Gunfire was reported in three locations, including the popular queer nightclub London Pub, the Herr Nilsen jazz club and a takeaway, city police said.
Two people were killed and at least 21 wounded in a mass shooting being treated by authorities as a terrorist attack.
The suspect, whom police believe acted alone, was arrested within three minutes of the attack and charged with murder, attempted murder and terrorist acts. He remains in custody.
Among those at the London Pub was Christian Svane Mellbye, a manager for the software development company Sopra Steria. He swung by the club with friends ahead of a packed day celebrating Oslo Pride.
While at the basement bar, which has a window looking at the street, suddenly everything went silent. “We just were sat downstairs, the music turned off and people started panicking,” he tells PinkNews.
The window to the nightclub had shattered, leaving shards of glass scattered on the floor as people huddled underneath bar tables for protection.
“It was pretty scary being down there not knowing what was happening,” he adds, “but the police and health officials arrived pretty fast.”
Trapped inside the basement for their safety, patrons tried to leave as confusion mingled with fear. Says Mellbye: “People were crying and we were told to stay down there.
“When I tried to leave maybe 10 minutes later, we were told to exit another way as there was a person shot in front of us.”
When Mellbye and his friends left the London Pub, he was met with dozens of “distressed people”. Officers told him to go to a hotel to seek medical treatment and other support if they needed it.
“Just glad my friends are OK,” Mellbye says, adding that he was “lucky” to have survived unscathed.
The London Pub, in the bustling southeast borough of Sentrum, has been a fixture of Oslo’s queer nightlife scene since it opened in the 1970s.
The shooting happened only a few hours before – and 350 metres away from – where Oslo Pride’s annual parade was scheduled to take place in the Pride Park at Spikersuppa.
But not anymore. The timing and location of the incident immediately raised fears it was a targeted attack against the LGBTQ+ community, prompting Oslo Pride organisers at the suggestion of police to cancel the parade and other events connected to the 10-day Pride festival.
“We will soon be proud and visible again, but for now, for today, we will hold our Pride events in our homes,” Oslo Pride leader Inger Kristin Haugsevje said in a Facebook statement.
Mellbye, however, remains resilient. His message to the shooter is a simple one.
“This idiot is not going to change the way we live or love,” he says.