A Mujahid, a Knife, and a Packed Railway Station

Just over a year ago a young Afghan culture-enricher went on a stabbing rampage in Amsterdam Central Station, seriously wounding two American tourists. Thanks to two policemen who did their jobs promptly, competently, and courageously, the perpetrator was shot and incapacitated before he could stab anyone else.

The following video tells the story of what happened that day at the station. The policemen (suitably anonymized) describe their actions, and there are stills and brief clips of the takedown of the mujahid, but the slow-motion sequences are re-enactments.

Many thanks to C for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Video transcript:

00:04   Those guys look at a police officer several times a day.
00:10   But this gentleman did it at such a distinct way that it triggered me.
00:14   I thought: hey, this is different, what’s going on here?
00:19   At that moment, he was looking at places; that made me wonder:
00:24   why are you looking at that, what’s there to see? What are you doing?
00:29   Friday, August 31, last year.
00:32   Officer Roel and his colleagues are working at Central Station.
00:36   They’ve been trained to spot suspect situations.
00:41   I have food in my hands, and somebody needs to be checked, at platform 5.
00:55   Six months earlier we had performed exercises at Central Station
00:59   during the night, because part of it is closed off then,
01:05   and we tried to train as realistically as possible, specifically for this kind of scenario.
01:12   The only difference was in the exercise it was someone with an axe; now it was someone with a knife.
01:17   That Friday, around 11:15AM, the international train from Germany arrives.
01:22   Whereas most travellers walk to the centre, or continue their journey.
01:26   there is one passenger who keeps hanging around the station.
01:30   It is this man, Jawed S., 19 years old and born in Afghanistan.
01:35   He is angry because of Wilders’ cartoon contest.
01:39   Jawed feels that his prophet is being insulted.
01:43   He walks around the station aimlessly for at least 40 minutes.
01:47   Around noon he moves into the west tunnel. At that moment, officer Roel spots him.
01:56   We’re interested in people who display unusual behavior.
02:02   Because you don’t know what’s behind it. So I then decided to involve a pair of officers,
02:08   so I asked for backup over the radio. Is there a pair who can help me in the west hall?
02:15   I kept an eye on the person.
02:18   I noticed that this triggered him to display even more unusual behavior.
02:25   Looking at places where there’s nothing to see, loitering.
02:28   He’s slowly moving toward the Ij-hall. —I’m coming your way.
02:33   After we knew where to go, and what the person looked like, we walked in that direction.
02:39   and before we arrived, there was panic at the information desk.
02:45   and I saw him stabbing, in a frenzy. One suspect has been stabbing people!
02:51   There is one wounded, two wounded.
02:58   There was a lot of noise, and screaming.
03:01   And I thought, goddammit, not in my station.
03:07   It seemed to me he was chasing somebody.
03:11   So my interpretation of the situation was that he was hunting for more victims.
03:18   So to me, he was a threat that had to be neutralized as soon as possible.
03:22   So at that moment I pull my firearm, aim and yell “police” at the top of my lungs.
03:28   “Drop the weapon or I shoot”.
03:31   Yes, I know I had my finger on the trigger and was about to squeeze it.
03:34   and that moment I hear a shot and I see him go down.
03:38   Shots fired in the west tunnel. One suspect down!
03:42   The suspect is still alive. Two firearms on the suspect.
03:45   We held him at gunpoint, watched his hands
03:49   to see if he had a switch, or wires. Because that of course is our worst fear,
03:53   that he had a bomb or something like that.
03:56   Keep still! Keep still and show your hands.
04:00   The moment I saw him, time slowed down.
04:05   Just like in the sci-fi movie “The Matrix”, everything slowed down.
04:11   and it has been explained to me that because of stress.
04:14   your brain processes twice as much information as in a normal situation.
04:19   So, that’s probably why I can’t recall what I saw at the information desk.
04:25   Can somebody take over [keeping him at gunpoint], guys?
04:30   73-10, I want to know: where has the victim been hit?
04:34   And I also want to know as soon as possible how many victims there are.
04:41   Yes, sorry, I’m the one who made the shot.
04:44   so I have to remove myself from the scene now.
04:47   It is Roel who shoots Jawed.
04:50   Still, he can’t pull the trigger right away.
04:53   When I pulled my firearm and aimed at the suspect,
04:57   and I followed him, I saw black, and I knew, that’s where the Starbucks is.
05:03   and it was full of people. So if I made the shot, and missed,
05:10   then there’s a huge risk that I’d hit an innocent person.
05:15   So I wanted to prevent that at all times. So… I had no other choice
05:20   than to follow him until I had a clear shot.
05:26   At that moment, I saw his silhouette against a light background,
05:31   and I realized that it’s stone.
05:34   and later I checked again, in the west hall the pillars have a light color.
05:41   so apparently he was in front of a pillar, so I thought now is my chance.
05:46   and I fired a shot, no effect, I fired another shot.
05:52   and he toppled over. —The moment he went down, I took a couple of steps, and
05:57   maybe you saw the photo, I was maybe two meters away from him,
06:01   and I thought, does he have a bomb vest, does he have a switch in his hands?
06:07   Because if that is the case, I have to neutralize him, and shoot him through the head.
06:13   The “small brains”, that little triangle between your eyes and your nose.
06:18   We’re assuming a terror attack. Everybody, we’re assuming
06:21   a terror attack. So take that into account.
06:24   Roel and his colleague Thijs notice that the suspect, while down, is moving his hands.
06:30   When he was on the ground, I saw he folded his hands.
06:36   and was babbling. it seemed to me he was praying.
06:41   I know he was folding his hands, or tried to anyway. He was in a lot of pain, of course.
06:47   and I also remember he was mumbling Arabic words.
06:51   Those were triggers for me, that gave me the idea we were dealing with a terror attack.
06:58   and not with a random psychiatric case who stabs people for no reason.
07:01   The suspect’s bag has been checked by the “tevver” [robot?].
07:04   There is no danger. We request digital forensics to safeguard the phone.
07:13   While his two colleagues focus on the suspect, officer Zalm manages to kick the knife away.
07:18   Unlike his colleagues, he is not carrying a firearm, since he just joined the force.
07:24   In hindsight, he realizes how vulnerable he was at that moment.
07:29   Yes, I felt fear at that moment. Because I wasn’t carrying a firearm.
07:36   I was only carrying pepper spray and a baton.
07:39   For me, my priority is to get myself to safety, and only do what I’m able to do.
07:45   The unarmed officer immediately checks on the victims.
07:48   The suspect stabbed two people, and one of them is badly wounded.
07:54   Two wounded. One man stabbed in lower back, can’t feel his legs.
07:57   Other person, stabbed in arm. Lots of blood.
08:00   The victim’s wife was in panic. The victim himself was rather calm.
08:06   He wondered what happened, where the stabber was.
08:13   Despite the fact he couldn’t move his lower body, he was very calm.
08:19   When the situation was considered safe, I administered first aid to the suspect.
08:25   since he was shot in his lower body.
08:29   Together with another colleague who arrived on the scene, we applied a bandage.
08:35   Then the paramedics arrived, and they took over.
08:42   Part of central station is quickly evacuated.
08:45   Travellers are evacuated, victims transported to hospital.
08:51   They turn out to be two American tourists…
08:54   who were traveling with their families to a wedding in Germany.
08:58   They invited the three officers to visit them in hospital a few days later.
09:05   An emotional moment, for all of us I think.
09:09   Because the victims were so grateful… they kept repeating they’d
09:13   been given a second chance to live.
09:16   They were very positive. They could also think “what happened to me,”
09:21   “I almost kicked the bucket.” They could have felt down.
09:25   Also the family was very grateful for our actions.
09:31   For a moment, I felt a little.
09:38   doubt. I was the one who first spotted him, and in the end two people got hurt.
09:47   So for a moment I thought, could I not have acted otherwise, and I felt guilty.
09:56   So, I cried for a moment. I also said it.
10:01   And it was very nice to hear they didn’t blame me for anything,
10:07   and that they thought we did our best. I needed to hear that.
10:12   Immediately after the attack, 200 to 300 officers are deployed.
10:17   Not just around CS, or the investigation, but also to monitor other busy places in the city.
10:24   The Zulu is flying from one to the other busy location in Amsterdam.
10:30   Here 16-91, if one of the people in charge could report to me on the scene,
10:35   I’m in front of the [police] tape in front of the west tube,
10:40   then we can set up a plan, because I want as many police officers as possible.
10:43   armed police officers with me, and at my disposal when I need them.
10:48   It soon becomes clear that Jawed S. acted alone.
10:51   It turns out he traveled to the Netherlands to kill random people,
10:55   as revenge for the cartoon contest.
10:58   A testament is found in his apartment, which shows he assumed he would not survive the attack.
11:04   Later I thought, what if? What if he were carrying a bomb vest?
11:09   I wouldn’t be here, possibly.
11:12   So, in hindsight, it was a very threatening situation we were all in.
11:20   It makes you think [?]. Your job, what you stand for, the risks you may have to deal with.
11:30   On the other hand, I have a certain sense of pride that we acted the way we did.
11:37   despite the two victims, we prevented worse.
11:42   It gives me a sense of purpose; I didn’t join the force for nothing.
11:49   I was able to stand for the safety of our city.
11:55   This was the story of the three officers at Central Station.
11:58   If you are curious about what happened behind the scenes, click on this video.
12:03   Among others, Mayor Halsema and former head of police Aalbersberg
12:07   will talk about the decision that had to be made on that day.
12:10   We will also focus on the background of the suspect, Jawed S.,
12:13   and we talk to the American ambassador, Pete Hoekstra.