At least eight dead, ‘dozens injured’ in Hamburg bloodbath
Gunman opened fire at Jehovah’s Witness center sparking ‘mass casualty incident’ in Germany’s second-biggest city on Thursday night
Shooting happened at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in the Alsterdorf district of Germany’s second-biggest city at around 9.15pm
Gunman was identified as Philipp Fusz, a 35-year-old, a German citizen and former Jehovah’s Witness
Gunman allegedly, shot himself shortly after the shooting began – Police said they did not discharge their weapons
Eight people were reportedly killed, four were seriously injured, while 4 more suffered minor injuries
Police said the gunman fired through the window before storming the building during a bible study meeting
At least eight people are dead and dozens are wounded after a gunman opened fire in a church center in Hamburg, Germany on Thursday night.
Police declared a ‘mass casualty incident’ following the massacre at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in the Alsterdorf district of Germany’s second-biggest city at around 9.15pm.
Authorities identified the gunman only as Philipp Fusz, a 35-year-old, a German national and a former Jehovah’s Witness, began shooting through a window at the hall, where dozens of people were gathered, before entering.
Fusz, a freelance business consultant, killed seven people, four men and two women aged 33 to 60, all German nationals, as well as an unborn female baby whose mother survived, during a rampage that started at 9pm on Thursday.
The 33-year-old woman, who was 28 weeks pregnant, suffered serious injuries, according to police.
The wounded included a Ugandan and a Ukrainian citizen, and four people suffered serious injuries.
Philipp shot himself on the first floor when police arrived minutes after the shooting started, according to the police report.
Mass shooting in Hamburg Jehova’s Witness hall that happened in the GroßBorstel district of Germany’s second-largest city of Hamburg
Police spokesman Holger Vehren said officers were alerted to the shooting about 9.15pm and were on the scene quickly. On arrival the responding officers heard a shot from an upper floor and found a person upstairs who may have been a shooter.
Police did not have to use their firearms, but the alleged shooter was among the dead. Local media reported police saying the gunman fired through the window before storming the building during a bible study meeting.
Police had no immediate information on a possible motive: ‘We only know that several people died here. Several people are wounded, they were taken to hospitals,’ Vehren said.
The Hamburg shooter was known to police, who had visited his apartment prior to the attack in response to an anonymous tip raising concerns about his state of mind. But they did not have enough grounds to take away his weapon, a legally-held semi-automatic pistol made by German company Heckler & Koch, officials said.
Executing a search of his apartment following the shooting, police found 15 loaded magazines of ammunition.
Fusz, who had left the Jehovah’s Witness church 18 months ago, killed himself with his weapon after members of a special forces unit stormed the hall and chased him up to the first floor of the three story building near the city center.
“He is a former member of Jehovah’s Witness who left the community voluntarily about a year and a half ago but apparently not on good terms,” said Thomas Radszuweit, Hamburg’s head of state security.
About 50 people were at an event held in the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in the Alsterdorf district of the city when the shooting started.
Fusz had a gun permit as a marksman since December 2022 and was in legal possession of a Heckler & Koch P30.
However, it’s been revealed that in January authorities received an anonymous letter suggesting he might be struggling with an untreated mental health issue.
Furthermore, that he had indicated a “particular anger against religious members or against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and his former employer”.
The revelation has raised issues on how police missed the red flags. Police paid Fusz an unannounced visit at his apartment in the Altona district of western Hamburg, on February 7.
The suspect cops said to be cooperative and convinced officers that there was no cause for concern. He was given a verbal warning for not keeping his weapon in his safe.
Police chief Ralf Martin Meyer told a press conference that the suspect did not have a criminal record and there had been no legal grounds to take away the man’s weapon
The violence had begun at around 9pm on Thursday evening when Fusz, a single man who had lived in Hamburg since 2015, arrived at Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall two hours into a service, and turned his weapon on a woman sitting in her car.
The gunman fired 10 shots at the vehicle but the driver managed to get away. Next the shooter at moved towards a window and shot open the window pane and entered the hall where 36 people were gathered. A further 25 members of the church had joined them online.
A total of 135 rounds were shot by the gunman with his semi-automatic weapon, seemingly in short bursts, punctuated by 20-second breaks.
The emergency services received 47 phone calls seeking help as the gunfire had sounded.
The first police response arrived within four minutes at 9.08pm but they could not immediately get into the building.
A special operations support unit arrived a minute later and breached the main door of the hall, they met they saw the gruesome scene of bodies strewn around and gunfire still ringing out.
They noticed a lone figure, dressed in dark clothes, fleeing up the stairs.
Cornered on the first floor of the building with police in pursuit the gunman peered out of a window, with nowhere to run, turned his weapon on himself.
The gunman had a backpack full of ammunition on him. A raid of his apartment led to the discovery of 15 loaded magazines with 15 cartridges each, and four boxes of ammunition containing another 200 cartridges, said Ralf Peter Anders from the public prosecutor’s office.
Hamburg Police said: ‘According to initial findings, a shot was fired in a church on Deelböge street in the Alsterdorf district.
‘Several people were seriously injured, some fatally. We are on site with a large contingent of forces.
‘So far, there is no reliable information on the motive for the crime.’
An event at the church had started at 7pm, two hours before the first call to emergency services.
Mayor of Hamburg Peter Tschentscher said: ‘The reports from are shocking.
‘My deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
‘The emergency services are working flat out to track down the perpetrators and clarify the background.’
Police previously said on Twitter that a large operation was under way in the next-door Alsterdorf district.
The area is a few miles north of the downtown area of Hamburg, which is Germany’s second-biggest city.
Police alerted people to an ‘extreme danger’ in the area using a catastrophe warning app.
Police told people living in the area to stay indoors, adding that streets surrounding the church have been cordoned off.
An emergency alert was posted after the shooting from the Department of the Interior that warned of a ‘life-threatening situation’ and ‘extreme danger’ in the area.
On Friday, the bodies of those killed were removed from the hall on stretchers and in one case a coffin, as media representatives watched on under the heavy snow. Forensic teams in protective white suits meanwhile continued to sweep for evidence at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall, a boxy, three-story building next to an auto repair shop, a few miles from downtown Hamburg.
Authorities have also been examining the gunman’s digital history for an explanation of his actions.