Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Germany - school shooting leaves 17 dead

Germany has been rocked following a school shooting which left at least 17 dead. Police were called to Albertville-Realschule in Winnenden after a former student dressing in black combat clothing opened fire on staff on pupils. The 17 year old named by police as Tim Kretschmer escaped from the school and hijacked a car. The man was believed to have been shot dead after barricading himself at a car showroom around 40 km from the school.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a “day of sadness for all Germany”. She said it was “completely incomprehensible that within seconds students and teachers were shot and lost their lives.”

On his website Kretschmer describes his interests as “violence” and “Killerspiele”. The term Killerspeile is used in Germany as a description for a computer application in which the killing of opponents in a fictional game world is an essential part of the play action and with a connection to the portrayal of violence.

During a press conference police said they had no clear motive for the attack. One parent said told news crews that Kretschmer had been expelled the previous year. Police said his father was a member of a gun club and legal owner of 15 guns, one of which had failed to be locked up.
According to police Kretschmer entered the school at around 9:30 am and began to open fire almost as soon as he arrived. The first victims died in a Physics classroom, all of them shot in the head. Two other students were killed in another classroom and a teacher also sustained fatal injuries. Despite a rapid response by police, the gunmen shot two more teachers dead and another two students who died before they reached hospital.

The gunman killed one further person before apparently leaving the school. He then hijacked a car forcing the driver to take him to a nearby town. However the car crashed off the road. Kretschmer ran from the scene leaving the driver free to call police. The gunman ran into a shopping area shooting the owner of a car show room and a customer.

As police arrived on the scene shots were exchanged and Kretschmer was hit by police marksmen as he attempted to escape. He was later found dead by police though it remains unclear whether he died from self inflicted wounds.

Police said Kretschmer was said to be “withdrawn” but was involved in sports activities. The spokesman said it was too early to say if the 17 year old was into computer games. Of those killed he said 8 students were female along with two female staff. Seven of those injured and in hospital were also female, though he said it was as yet unclear if the high number of female casualties was a coincidence or not. [BBC / Sky News / CNN / wikipedia].

Germany has seen several school shootings and attcks in the last few years. Seventeen people were left dead in East Germany in April 2002 after a former pupil went on the rampage. The 19 year old Robert Steinhäuser, shot and killed sixteen people; comprising 13 faculty members, 2 students, and one police officer,before killing himself [BBC / wikipedia]. In February of the same year a former pupil killed his headmaster and set off pipe bombs in the technical school he had recently been expelled from in Freising near Munich. The man also shot dead his boss and a foreman at the company he worked for before turning the gun on himself. Another teacher was shot in the face, but survived.

In March 2000 a 16 year old pupil at a private boarding school in the Bavarian town of Branneburg, shot a 57 year old teacher, who later died from injuries. The teenager, who also shot himself, was facing expulsion from school after failing a cannabis test.
And in 1999 a 15 year old student in Meissen, eastern Germany, stabbed his teacher to death after taking bets from classmates he would dare commit the crime. He was later jailed for seven years.

The incident in Germany comes within hours of another shooting tragedy in Alabama in the United States which left 10 dead. Michael McLendon is said to have killed half the members of his family including his mother, grand mother, grand father, aunt and uncle [CNN]. And on Sunday a pastor was left dead after a churchgoer shot him. He was tackled by other worshippers as his gun jammed. Two were stabbed as was the gunman who was taken to hospital in a serious condition [CNN].
[updated - 17:37 GMT]

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