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John Ausonius in the projection booth of the Astoria movie theater in Stockholm, 1986.

John Wolfgang Alexander Ausonius (born July 12, 1953), known in the media as Lasermannen ("the Laser Man") is a Swedish convicted murderer, bank robber, and attempted serial killer. From August 1991 to February 1992 he shot eleven people in the Stockholm and Uppsala area, most of whom were immigrants, killing one and seriously injuring the others. He first used a rifle equipped with a laser sight (hence, his nickname), and later switched to a revolver. He was arrested in June 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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History

Ausonius was born Wolfgang Alexander Zaugg in Lidingö east of Stockholm, Sweden, the son of a Swiss father and a German mother who had both immigrated to Sweden. He grew up in Vällingby, a working class suburb of Stockholm. According to newspaper reports, he was bullied as a child because of his non-Swedish background, which manifested in him being teased for having very black hair. As an adult, he dyed his hair blonde and legally changed his name, first to John Wolfgang Alexander Stannerman, and later to John Wolfgang Alexander Ausonius to disguise his non-Swedish surname. He went to the German school in Stockholm, a private school, but dropped out before graduating. He later completed his secondary school education in an adult education programme and managed to get accepted to the Royal Institute of Technology, but dropped out after a couple of years of unsuccessful study. Ausonius is known to be a movie-fan, his favourite movies were the Monty Python films, especially Life of Brian; also, more in tune with his crimes, he liked Death Wish, a movie he rented many times and rewatched often. Swedish media wrote about the possibility that Ausonius first plan to only kill immigrants who were criminal came from watching this movie.

Following the Olof Palme assassination in 1986, Ausonius, then named John Stannerman, was one of the police’s initial suspects for the murder. However, Stannerman could not be linked to the murder since he was in prison the night Palme was shot. In prison he also got to know the Ustasa-terrorist Miro Baresic, who was sentenced to life in Sweden after he and his friend shot a Yugoslavian ambassador in Stockholm to death. Ausonius looked up to Baresic and had him tell everything about his life of war and terrorism.

As an adult, he espoused hatred for Communists, Social Democrats, and immigrants, and dreamed about getting rich. At the time he was working a low-paying job as a taxi-driver, but started trading in stocks and bonds. He had a talent for the market and quickly earned a fairly large fortune. He adopted the yuppie life-style, and by the late 80's he not only had a luxurious apartment, a Japanese sports car (a Toyota Supra ‚ÄĒ he despised the Porsche that many other yuppies drove at that time), but also a mobile phone, which before the 90's was a luxury item usually associated with jet-set lifestyle. However, poorly chosen investments depleted his fortune, and when he became addicted to gambling on a trip to Germany, he found himself in dire economic circumstances. He turned to robbing banks to maintain his lifestyle. He performed more than 18 robberies, all in almost identical fashion.

Ausonius, who had become a Swedish citizen in 1979, had a strong hatred for immigrants and foreigners, and so started to look for immigrant criminals to kill. Eventually he got tired of this and decided to simply kill an immigrant, any immigrant, which he hoped would scare them all out of the country.

Victims
  • On August 2, 1991, the Laser Man shot his first person. The victim was a 21 year old immigrant to Sweden from Eritrea, whom Ausonius shot in the back. The victim, however, survived. Two of the victim's friends said they saw a circle of red light on his body before they heard the shot.
  • On the evening of October 21, 1991, outside the Stockholm University, Shahram Khosravi, a 25-year-old student of Iranian origin, was shot in the face but survived.
  • On the night of October 27, 1991, a homeless man of Greek origin was shot twice in the stomach. The victim saw a bright red light, heard the shots but managed to run away. Although wounded, he survived.
  • In the middle of the day of November 1, 1991, Ausonius walked into a restaurant kitchen in Stockholm where he had seen an immigrant and shot him once in the head and several times in the stomach. The victim, Heberson Vieira Da Costa, a musician from Brazil, saw a red light before he was shot, and got a good look at his assailant. The victim survived, seriously wounded, but was able to give a description of the Laser Man to the police.
  • Ausonius continued his shootings and, on November 8, he mortally wounded Jimmy Ranjbar, another Iranian student, who died the next day.

Ausonius then went to Las Vegas to gamble and visit the Grand Canyon. The Laser Man disappeared for a few months, but he would return.

  • On January 22, 1992, Ausonius went to Uppsala, where he walked up to a couple, and shot the man in the head. The victim, Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, was a Ph.D. student in medical sciences. He survived and is now a scientist representing Sweden in several international scientific networks.
  • January 23, 1992, back in Stockholm, Ausonius shot a black bus driver, originally from Zimbabwe, in the middle of the day. The victim was shot in the chest but survived. That evening, Ausonius walked into a Somali club in central Stockholm and shot two men, both of whom also survived.
  • On the night of January 28, 1992, Ausonius walked up to a kiosk where Isa Aybar, an immigrant of Turkish origin, was working. Ausonius shot him four times in the head and arm, and walked away. Aybar was seriously wounded but managed to call the police and survived.
  • On January 30, 1992 Ausonius shot his last victim in the head, a store owner in H√§gerstens√•sen, paralyzing but not killing him.

Ausonius is also the main suspect for murdering a Jewish woman on February 23, 1992, in Frankfurt, Germany. But the investigation by German police has been dropped and Ausonius will probably never be linked to this crime.

Having been in the army, Ausonius knew how to use a weapon. However, his guns were of poor quality, very likely because Ausonius had modified them himself. He sawed off both the barrel and the stock of his first rifle to make it shorter, and he fitted the Smith & Wesson revolver with a silencer. This modification may have been the key to his failures in killing most of his victims as it deviated the bullet's trajectory and consequently causing him to miss his victims. It was amateurishly done and damaged the weapon's performance.

The police started a massive manhunt (second in size only to the hunt for Olof Palme's killer) and Ausonius was arrested during a bank robbery on June 12, 1992. He later assaulted his own lawyer in court and spent the rest of his trial in handcuffs. He was convicted of murder and robbery, but could not be linked to all of the shootings (although he confessed to all of them in 2000). He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and is currently serving it in Kumla Prison.

Media

The journalist Gellert Tamas wrote a book about the case, Lasermannen - en berättelse om Sverige (2002), which became a bestseller. The book, which is very detailed, was published without consulting the victims first. The author's personal opinions not only deals with Ausonius and his life story, but also with Sweden in general, speculating that Ausonius actions were in part explained by a surge of xenophobic sentiments in the country in the early 1990s, including the success of the Ny Demokrati right-wing party in the election.

In 2005, the book was adapted into a play, and the same year SVT produced a three-part TV miniseries, which premiered on November 23. Ausonius was played by David Dencik.

Engagement

In late April 2006, the daily Aftonbladet revealed that John Ausonius had gotten engaged with an anonymous 23 year old woman, who had fallen in love with him after having seen the recent TV miniseries. According to the paper, a friend of the woman says the couple are planning to move abroad after Ausonius' future release from prison.

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