The alleged perpetrator identified the investigative authorities on Friday as 35-year-old Philipp F., who used to be a member of the community in the Groß Borstel district, but left the Jehovah's Witnesses about a year and a half ago. According to the police and the public prosecutor, at around 9:00 p.m., F. first shot a semi-automatic pistol through a window into the house where a service was taking place. After that, he got into the building through the window and continued shooting.
The fatalities were four men and two women between the ages of 33 and 60 and an unborn baby in the womb. The mother survived. In addition, seven people between the ages of 22 and 45 were injured, three of whom were in mortal danger. Hamburg's interior senator Andy Grote (SPD) spoke to journalists on Friday about an "amoctacy" and the "worst crime in our city's recent history".
At 9:04 p.m., the first of 47 emergency calls were received. A special police unit happened to be nearby and arrived at the crime scene within minutes. When the police forces got into the house, the alleged perpetrator fled to the upper floor, said operations manager Matthias Tresp. He was later found shot dead with a pistol in his hand. Police officers found nine empty magazines, each with 15 rounds, and the alleged perpetrator still had 22 magazines with him. More ammunition was found in his apartment.
Tresp spoke of a "lucky coincidence" that the special unit was nearby. 953 police officers were involved in the following large-scale operation, including special forces from Schleswig-Holstein and the federal police. About 20 people could have been rescued from the building unharmed.
Because of the unclear circumstances of the crime, the concept of an amok action took hold. People in the surrounding district were asked to avoid the danger area and stay in their homes. In a video shot by a witness, it initially looked as if another perpetrator had been involved. But it was a shadow, said Tresp. Later that night, police announced that there was no evidence of any fugitives.
She assumes that F. committed the crime alone. Investigators have no indication of a political motive. The suspect was also not known to authorities. According to prosecutors, there were no criminal charges against him. However, he himself had filed criminal charges for alleged fraud. That will be followed up. F. was registered as a marksman and legally owned the alleged murder weapon.
In January, however, the weapons authority received an anonymous tip about a suspected mental illness in the 35-year-old. He was also particularly angry at Jehovah's Witnesses, it said. During an unannounced inspection of his apartment in February, officials did not find any violations of gun regulations, with the exception of a single projectile outside the safe, said Hamburg's police chief Ralf Meyer. The process should now be checked again, the letter writer could not be determined so far.
According to investigators, F. was born in Memmingen, Bavaria. He is said to have lived in Hamburg since 2014. A year and a half ago, he apparently left the community of Jehovah's Witnesses voluntarily, but "not for the better," as Thomas Radszuweit, head of state security, said. According to the anonymous letter to the weapons authority, he is said to have been angry not only at the Jehovah's Witnesses, but also at his former employer.
The bloody deed triggered horror in Germany and Europe. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said when he visited the trade fair in Munich that he was "stunned" by this violence. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he received the news "with great horror".
Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) visited the crime scene with Grote on Friday. Faeser was "deeply moved" by the reports of the emergency services and spoke of a "terrible act". Other politicians and the Christian churches also reacted with dismay. France and the United States sent their condolences to the families of the victims.