German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

German prosecutors said Tuesday they believe a duo suspected of shooting dead two police officers during a routine traffic check were trying to escape being found out for illegal hunting of animals.

Candles stand near the road where two police offers were shot to death in western Germany.
Candles stand near the road where two police offers were shot to death in western Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Harald Tittel

The two suspects, aged 38 and 32, appear to have gunned down the officers “to conceal the poaching”, prosecutor Stefan Orthen told a press conference in the western city of Kaiserslautern.

Dead game had been found in the boot of their car when it was stopped, investigators said.

The shooting in the Kusel district of Rhineland-Palatinate state in the early hours of Monday morning sent shockwaves across Germany.

The victims were a 24-year-old female police officer still in training and her 29-year-old male colleague.

The young woman was killed by a single shot to the head, while the male officer was shot four times, investigators said.

The officers were able to report that they were checking a suspicious vehicle and that shots were being fired before radio contact broke off.

When backup arrived, the woman was already dead and the man fatally injured. The perpetrators had fled the scene.

The crime triggered a major manhunt, with police deploying helicopters and sniffer dogs, sealing off roads and warning local residents not to pick up hitchhikers.

READ ALSO: Germany arrests two suspects in double police shooting


The suspects were arrested on Monday evening in the neighbouring state of Saarland after the 38-year-old’s ID was found lying near the body of the female officer.

Police had released a photo of the 38-year-old posing in what appeared to be a bakery and named him as Andreas Johannes Schmitt.

Both suspects are already known to police: the 38-year-old for poaching and fleeing the scene of a traffic accident, and the 32-year-old for fraud allegations.

They were remanded in custody on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Udo Gehring called the crime “disturbing” and “rare”.

“It does not fit with our idea of Germany that someone starts shooting with a hunting weapon in the street just because he was caught poaching,” he said.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday said the act had left him “deeply saddened”.

Gun crime is relatively rare in Germany, which has some of the strictest gun laws in Europe.

However, just last week, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University, killing a young woman and injuring three others before turning the weapon on himself.

In September, a 20-year-old petrol station worker was shot dead by a customer angry about being asked to wear a face mask while buying beer.

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German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

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

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.