Rampage: Jehovah's Witnesses rampage killer is ex-congregational member

The gunman in Hamburg was 35-year-old Philipp F.

Rampage: Jehovah's Witnesses rampage killer is ex-congregational member

The gunman in Hamburg was 35-year-old Philipp F., an ex-member of the Hamburg community of Jehovah's Witnesses. He left this one and a half years ago voluntarily, but obviously not on good terms, said the police, prosecutors and interior authorities at a press conference.

In the act on Thursday, seven people died and the perpetrator himself, eight other people were injured. The police also counted an unborn child among the dead. According to the information, the German was a sports shooter, had had a gun ownership card since December 2022 and had only recently been visited by the weapons authority.

Faser at the crime scene

In the afternoon, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) expressed the Federal Government's deepest sympathy to the relatives and friends of the victims during a visit to the scene of the crime. "It's hard to put into words what a terrible thing happened here. What a perpetrator could do with this amok attack is really horrific." She was deeply moved, said the minister.

Hamburg's interior senator Andy Grote (SPD) described the act as a rampage: "A rampage of this magnitude – we've never seen it before. It's the worst crime, the worst crime in our city's recent history." The gunman had fired more than 100 times. The fatalities are said to be four men, two women and a female fetus aged 28 weeks. The men and women are between 33 and 60 years old, said the head of state security for the police, Thomas Radszuweit. "All of the fatalities are German nationals and died as a result of gunshots."


The fatal shots were fired around 9 p.m. on Thursday evening during an event in the community building in Hamburg’s Alsterdorf district. The police were at the scene within minutes: the first emergency calls were received at 9:04 p.m. "At 9:08 p.m. the first forces were on site," said Grote. Only a minute later, at 9:09 p.m., the emergency patrol was at the scene of the crime.

A spokesman for the faith community said the shots were fired after the regular service. This started at 7 p.m. and was broadcast digitally. 36 people were on site, another 25 had switched on digitally, said Michael Tsifidaris, spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in northern Germany. The event ended at 8:45 p.m.

Emergency services quickly on site

According to the interior senator, the emergency services very likely saved a number of lives: "It is very likely that we owe it to the very, very quick and decisive intervention of the police emergency services that there are no more victims to be lamented." Investigators were out looking for clues at the scene of the crime until Friday morning.

Faeser was impressed by how well the operation had worked. It was a great achievement by the Hamburg police. This applies to all rescue workers. "How quickly and carefully action was taken here is more than exemplary."

Forensic investigators work at the crime scene in the morning.

This is known about the perpetrator

According to information from security circles, the 35-year-old shooter was not known to be an extremist. Police President Ralf Martin Meyer said he had been in legal possession of a semi-automatic pistol since December 12. It was the murder weapon. The 35-year-old fired more than 100 shots.

"In total, he fired 9 magazines with 15 rounds each," said Radszuweit, head of state security in Hamburg. The gunman comes from Memmingen in Bavaria. He studied in Munich, said Radszuweit. According to dpa information, he had been registered in Hamburg since 2015, so he grew up in Kempten in the Allgäu.

According to Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer, the weapons authority received anonymous information in January about a possible mental illness of Philipp F. The aim of the unknown writer was to have the behavior and the weapons law regulations in relation to Philipp F. checked. According to the letter, F. was particularly angry with religious followers, especially Jehovah's Witnesses and his former employer.

The officials of the weapons authority would have researched further after the tip. At the beginning of February, F. was visited unannounced by two officials from the weapons authority. This was a standard check that took place after an anonymous tip. F. was cooperative, said Meyer. There were no relevant complaints. The legal possibilities had been exhausted.

According to the public prosecutor's office, the police also found a large quantity of ammunition in the apartment of the alleged perpetrator after the shots were fired. The head of the public prosecutor's office, Ralf Peter Anders, spoke of 15 loaded magazines, each with 15 cartridges and 4 boxes of ammunition with a further 200 cartridges. In addition, laptops and smartphones were secured, which would still be evaluated.

References to dispute with Jehovah's Witnesses

The investigators do not rule out possible conflicts within the religious community. Police chief Meyer said there were indications of a dispute "possibly from the area of ​​Jehovah's Witnesses". That had to be checked, nothing was found in the files. Radszuweit said the issue of disputes is currently under investigation. According to him, the gunman Philipp F. left the Hamburg community voluntarily a year and a half ago, "but obviously not for the better."

The Jehovah's Witnesses were "deeply concerned" in a statement. Numerous national and international politicians were shocked and concerned about the deadly incident, including Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and French President Emmanuel Macron. The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing, said he was "shocked" by the "inhuman act of violence in Hamburg". The Catholic bishop wrote on Twitter on Friday that his prayers are for the deceased, the injured and their relatives.