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CRIME

Student kills one and injures three in Heidelberg university shooting

An 18-year-old German student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany on Monday, killing a young woman and injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

Police vehicles parked on the grounds of Heidelberg University after the shooting.
Police vehicles parked on the grounds of Heidelberg University after the shooting. Photo: picture alliance/dpa//Pr-Video | R.Priebe

The gunman fired shots “wildly” around the amphitheatre at around lunchtime, a police spokesman told AFP.

The shooting took place during an organic chemistry class for bioscience students, a course the assailant himself was enrolled in, university president Bernhard Eitel told reporters.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear but police said there were early indications the gunman had previously suffered from psychiatric problems.

The assailant had sent an alarming text message to his father shortly before the rampage.

A member of the German special taskforce (SEK) at the Heidelberg University campus. Photo: picture alliance/dpa//Pr-Video | R.Priebe

In the WhatsApp message, the gunman wrote that “people have to be punished now”, Mannheim police chief Siegfried Kollmar told a press conference.

The message also said: “He doesn’t want to be buried in a cemetery, but at sea.”

The shooting shocked the picturesque town of Heidelberg and left students traumatised.

Thirty people were attending the lecture at the Neuenheimer Feld campus when the gunman burst in and fired multiple shots using “a long weapon”, Kollmar said.

Police received the first emergency calls from inside the lecture hall at 12:24 pm and  officers were at the scene within 10 minutes, he added.

They discovered the gunman’s body outside the building, after he killed himself.

The rampage left four people wounded, including a young woman, 23, who died of her injuries in hospital several hours later.

The three others suffered wounds to the legs, back and face, Kollmar said.

The shooting triggered a major police operation at the university’s Neuenheimer Feld campus, with police on Twitter urging people to steer clear of the area “so that rescue workers and emergency services can travel freely”.

Police deployed sniffer dogs around the campus, and investigators were seen examining a rifle lying next to a beige backpack.

The university’s Neuenheimer Feld campus, shown below in the map, hosts natural sciences departments, part of the university clinic as well as a botanical garden.

‘My heart breaks’

Chancellor Olaf Scholz voiced shock at the assault, and said his thoughts were with the victims and their relatives. “It breaks my heart to hear such news,” he told journalists.

Kollmar said the gunman, who was not previously known to police, had acted alone and that he apparently bought the weapons abroad.

The assailant had carried two rifles onto the campus, said Kollmar, adding that investigators found more than 100 rounds of ammunition in the backpack he was carrying.

Officers have searched the gunman’s home in the nearby city of Mannheim, he added.

The medieval town of Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Württemberg has a population of  160,000 people.

Heidelberg University, founded in 1386, is Germany’s oldest university and one of the most prestigious in Europe.

The state’s interior minister, Thomas Strobl, expressed his sympathies for those affected by the “terrible event” and urged students in distress to make use of the mental health support on offer.

“Universities and the city of Heidelberg will remain spaces free of fear where science can flourish and where young people can prepare for the rest of their lives,” he said.

The university resumed in-person classes in October after months of distance learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Students have to show they are vaccinated against Covid, recovered or in possession of a recent negative test if they want to enter university buildings.

Tightened gun laws

Germany has been hit in recent years by a spate of attacks, mostly perpetrated by jihadists or far-right militants.

School shootings however are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, also in Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, gunned down 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

Both massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten its gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone younger than 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

With reporting by Michelle Fitzpatrick and Sebastien Ash

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CRIME

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

A 21-year-old gunman opened fire at a secondary school in northern Germany on Thursday, badly injuring a female member of staff before being arrested, police said.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The incident happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured woman was not a pupil, police said.

They said the suspect had entered the school building and fired at a female member of staff, who was “seriously injured”.

The alarm was quickly raised and police said they detained the suspect at a nearby location soon after and had seized his weapon at the scene.

The injured woman is being treated in hospital.

A video circulating on social media and German news sites appeared to capture the moment the gunman was arrested.

A man dressed in black is seen lying face down on a street corner, with a weapon next to him, before being handcuffed by officers.

But there was no immediate confirmation of reports the alleged weapon was a crossbow.

Bremerhaven police tweeted in the morning that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 said a school pupil had heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police launched a large-scale operation and cordoned off the area around the school while they carried out inquiries. 

By mid-afternoon, police said special forces had completed their search and the last people had left the building.

Authorities set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents had gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children.

Pupils and staff are receiving psychological counselling.

Local media said only around 200 people were on the school grounds, fewer than normal because of exam times.

In a separate incident on Thursday, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had detained a 21-year-old student still at secondary school after being tipped off by Snapchat that he had posted pictures of himself with a gun and made unspecified threats.

The US social media platform alerted German authorities, prompting Leipzig police to take action.

 A police spokesman said that the 21-year-old did not pose a real threat, however, and only possessed an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that uses non-lethal, usually plastic, pellets.

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

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