Between 1991 and 1992, Stockholm, Sweden was stricken with fear. An unknown assailant armed with a laser sighted rifle shot a total of eleven people during ten different attacks. One died and several others suffered crippling and permanent injuries. The only common thread between these victims was: they were all immigrants.
John Ausonius also known as Lasermannen (“the Laser Man”) was born under the name Wolfgang Alexander Zaugg in Lidingö, Sweden on July of 1953. Like many of his killers before him, Ausonius had a difficult childhood. Growing up in a working-class suburb near Stockholm, he experienced consistent bullying for his appearance. As the child of Swiss and German immigrants, Ausonius had black hair and brown eyes that made him stand out like a sore thumb among his blonde, bright-eyed classmates.
This childhood bullying affected him so much that when he became an adult, he dyed his hair blonde, wore colored contacts and legally changed his name firstly to John (Wolfgang Alexander) Stannerman, then later altered it again to John Ausonius in an effort to disguise his non-Swedish last name. Ausonius attended a private, German school but dropped out shortly after. As an adult he went on to complete his secondary school education adult program and even managed an acceptance into the Royal Institute of Technology, but he dropped out again.
Ausonius’ traumatic childhood bullying manifested in a right-wing obsession and a deep hatred for Democrats, Communists, and immigrants. Along with this newfound political devotion, Ausonius also developed a fixation on becoming rich. At the time, Ausonius worked as a taxi driver but eventually involved in stock trading in which he discovered a talent and collected a somewhat large fortune.
By the late 80s, his dream lifestyle was starting to come true; he had a luxurious apartment, his own mobile phone – something that not everyone had at the time – and a Japanese sports car. Unfortunately for Ausonius, this dream was short-lived since his fortune was gone after a few bad investment decisions. He fell into a gambling addiction as a last-ditch effort to gain some money back but instead he found himself in an even worse financial situation.
By this point, Ausonius began to turn to bank robbing to fund his extravagant lifestyle. In total, he committed more than 18 robberies.
Ausonius, who himself had become a Swedish citizen in 1979, had an extreme hatred for foreigners and immigrants, this abhorrence led to a path of becoming a killer. Ausonius had little luck looking for immigrant criminals so he expanded the criteria to any immigrant, in the hopes of scaring them out of the country.
In early August 1991, Ausonius shot his first victim who was a 21-year-old Black immigrant from Eritrea. Although he survived the attack, his friends who were witnesses to the crime, said they saw a red, laser-like light circle on the body before they heard the shot, which is how Ausonius earned his title, the Laser Man.
This led Ausonius on his first shooting spree:
- On October 21, 1991 near Stockholm University, he shot 25-year-old Iranian student, Shahram Shosravi. Although shot in the back, Shosravi survived.
- Six days later he attacked a Greek homeless man with two shots to the stomach, he survived and told police about a bright red light before he was shot.
- On the first day of November 1991, Ausonius shot a Brazilian musician he had seen in a restaurant in Stockholm, once in the head and two shots to the stomach. Although seriously injured, the Brazilian musician survived as well and was able to give a description of the assailant to the police.
- Finally on November 8, he fatally shot Jimmy Ranjbar, another Iranian student, who died the next day due to his injuries.
The news of the shooting spree in Sweden horrified natives and immigrants alike but as quickly as the spree began, it stopped, briefly. Ausonius took a gambling trip to Las Vegas and the Laser Man disappeared only to return a few months later.
- On January 22, 1992 while visiting Uppsala, Sweden, Ausonius walked up to a couple and shot the man’s partner in the head. The victim, Erik Bongcam-Rudloff had been born in Chile and was studying medicine. He survived and became a successful Swedish biologist.
- A day later, Ausonius returned to Stockholm and shot a Black bus driver, who was from Zimbabwe. The victim was shot in the chest but like most of the other victims, he also survived.
- That same day Ausonius walked into a Somalian club in Stockholm and shot two Black men. Both survived.
- On January 28, while at a kiosk, Ausonius shot Isa Aybar, a Turkish immigrant who was working there. Shot him four times in the head and arm, Aybar was mortally wounded but survived and was able to call the police.
- Ausonius shot his last victim in the head on January 30, the victim survived but was paralyzed.
An Unsuccessful Killer
Ausonius’ failed killing spree can be attributed to his chosen “murder” weapon. Having served in the army Ausonius was familiar with guns, however, the ones he used were of poor quality due to his own modifications. He altered his first rifle by sawing off the barrel and the stock to make it shorter. He also modified another gun, a Smith and Wesson revolver, with a silencer. Most of his modifications were incompetent and distorted the weapons’ performance, especially the revolver since it’s impossible to silence.
The shooting sprees caught the attention of Swedish police and a massive manhunt ensued. Ausonius was quickly arrested on June 12, 1992 as he was attempting to rob another bank. With so many survivable witnesses and a victim seeing his face, Ausonius did not stand a chance. While in court, he showed no remorse and even assaulted his own lawyer in court, he spent the rest of the trial in handcuffs.
One count of murder, ten counts of attempted murder, nine counts of robbery
John Ausonius was convicted of one count of murder, ten counts of attempted murder and nine counts of robbery. Police could not link him to every shooting, even though he confessed to all of them in 2000. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to life in prison and was incarcerated at Kumla Prison in Sweden but in 2012 he was transferred to Österåker Prison.
He made several attempts to appeal his sentence, but all were rejected. While in prison, Ausonius was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and autism, the National Board of Forensic Medicine rejected his plea on the basis that his mental illness could cause him to reoffend in the future.
But it doesn’t end there.
The Laser Man would gain media attention once again in 2016 when he was extradited to Germany to stand trial for the murder of Blanka Zmigrod, a 68-year-old Holocaust survivor. While German police were investigating the murder they discovered ties to the National Socialist Underground, a far-right neo-Nazi terrorist organization.
A recent Swedish documentary revealed that Zmigrod had be imprisoned at several different concentration camps, including Auschwitz, She had also survived several “death marches.”
Stefan Bergquist, a Swedish police officer has said Ausonius smiled and appeared joyful when informed during questioning in 1993, that Zmigrod was a Jewish immigrant.
Ausonius was found guilty and sentenced to another life sentence in Germany.
It is likely that the Laser Man will never get out of prison and I, for one, am glad for it.