COPENHAGEN (AP) — Danish authorities said Wednesday that the motive behind the slaying of a biracial man on a Baltic Sea island was a personal relationship gone wrong rather than a racially motivated killing.
The 28-year-old victim, who had Danish and African roots, was found in the woods on the island of Bornholm on June 23. He was still alive but died hours later. Two brothers — ages 23 and 25 — were detained on the same day on suspicion of murder. Neither the victim nor the suspects have been named.
Speculation that the killing could be racially motivated began after it emerged that his death bore some similarities to that of George Floyd, a Black man who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes even as Floyd pleaded for air. Floyd’s death has sparked protests around the world demanding racial justice and condemning police brutality.
People made the claim on social media that the killing was racial and drew parallels to the Floyd case. The Danish chapter of Black Lives Matter wrote on Facebook that “two brothers committed a racial murder on Bornholm” and posted a photo of a swastika tattoo, claiming it was on one suspect’s leg.
Benthe Pedersen Lund, the prosecutor handling the case, declined to comment on whether the suspect had such a tattoo. Danish media reported that the other suspect reportedly had expressed support for a Danish extreme right group and for White Lives Matter on his Facebook page.
Left-wing Danish lawmaker Rosa Lund added fuel to the debate by tweeting on June 24 that “it seems to have been racially motivated,” but failed to back her claim.
Investigators looked into the possibility of a racial motive but felt it didn’t fit the case, Pedersen Lund said Wednesday.
“From the very clear explanations we have (from the suspects), we have a good reason to believe that the killing isn’t racially motivated,” she told The Associated Press. “We believe there is a personal relationship between the two suspects and the killer that went completely wrong.”
She wouldn’t elaborate. The suspects have been ordered held until July 22.
John Joergensen, a lawyer for one of the suspects, said that his client hadn’t even been asked whether there was a racial motive. He said the men were friends.
Tobias Brandt Kraehmer, who described himself as a friend of the victim, said the man was visiting his parents on Bornholm and went out for a party on June 22 that ended in the woods north of Roenne, Bornholm’s main town. He said those who claimed there was a racial motive had to be from outside the island.
“For years, the three hung out. They were best friends,” Brandt Kraehmer told the AP. “Around here we all know about the motive. It was personally related. There is no racist motive in this.”
Brandt Kraehmer, who is white, said that last week he tore down a small banner on the main square in Roenne that said “No lives matter until Black lives matter.”
“To me, the text was inappropriate,” he said. “To us here, it (the killing) is a tragedy, nothing else.”