Berlin police say lethal shot was ‘defence’

German police have defended an officer's decision to shoot a naked man brandishing a knife in central Berlin on Friday morning. He died of his injuries. The shot, which hit him in the chest was, they said, legitimate self-defence.

Berlin police say lethal shot was 'defence'
Photo: DPA

“We’re looking into the exact circumstances,” said spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office Martin Steltner on Friday, “First indications would suggest legitimate self-defence.”

The incident occurred at 10am on Friday at Alexanderplatz in front of the capital’s iconic TV tower, when a man stripped and stepped into the Neptune fountain. He was brandishing a large knife and appeared agitated, cutting himself, wrote the Tagesspiegel newspaper late on Friday.

Police officers arrived, shouts were heard and as the crowd looked on, an officer shot the naked man in the chest – before long he was dead. In the aftermath of the very public incident, police have been forced to defend their actions.

According to their official report, a bystander had alerted authorities after seeing a man – a 31-year-old from Berlin – sitting naked in the fountain, bleeding heavily and cutting himself in the arms and throat with a 20cm long serrated knife.

As police tried to calm the man down, said the official report, one officer climbed into the fountain, whereupon the man approached him with the knife.

“Put the knife down!” shouted the policeman, but when the naked man failed to stop and was standing “right in front of the policeman in the water,” the officer shot him in the torso. He later died.

Given the numbers of bystanders, a number of photos and mobile phone footage of the incident quickly began circulating online and by Friday evening was appearing on TV news broadcasts.

Pending the results of an autopsy currently underway, public prosecutor spokesman Martin Steltner said it was highly likely that the man died from the gunshot wound, after the bullet punctured his lungs.

“It was an exceptional situation for everyone,” said Green MP Benedikt Lux speaking in a session of the Berlin senate on Friday.

However, Lux said he was concerned that the police had not tried non-lethal methods of preventing the man attacking or running away – why had they not shot him in the legs, or simply used pepper spray, he asked.

The Local/jlb

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101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor