By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
(CHANGING LEAD, ADDS MORE DETAILS, REACTION FROM GOVERNMENT)
STUTTGART, GERMANY (BosNewsLife)– A 17-year-old boy opened fire at his former former high school in southwestern Germany and elsewhere Wednesday, March 11, killing at least 16 people, before he was shot dead by security forces, police said.
Tim Kretschmer began his rampage at Albertville-Realschule Winnenden school in the town of Winnenden, near Stuttgart killing nine students, three teachers and a passer-by outside the school building, officials said, just hours after a similar deadly shooting spree in the United States.
Soon after a girl died of her wounds in the hospital.
“He went into the school with a weapon and carried out a bloodbath,” said regional police chief Erwin Hetger in a statement to reporters. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
The shooting, which began around 9:45 a.m local time lasted about two minutes, police said. Kretschmer reportedly fired shots into three classrooms.
Triggering a land and air manhunt, he hijacked a car, freed the passengers and drove about 25 miles (40 kilometers) before police found him in the nearby town of Wendlingen. When confronted, he killed two bystanders in a shootout with police before he was slain, said Guenther Oettinger, the governor of the German state of Baden Wuerttemburg where the shootings happened.
Two officers were seriously injured, but there was no immediate information on other casualties.
Kretschmer was on the loose for three and a half hours after the incident began, police said in a statement.
In a first reaction monitored by BosNewsLife, the German government said it was “deeply shocked” by the shooting spree. In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed shock, describing the killings as an “appalling crime.” She called Wednesday “a day of mourning for the whole of Germany.”
Helicopters were seen circling above this sprawling town in Germany’s Baden-Wuerttemberg state. Rescue workers and fire fighters were at the school, which had been evacuated, police said.
Wednesday’s shooting occurred after news that in the United States, at least 10 people including the suspected gunman and his mother were killed in a shooting spree and car chase in southern Alabama late Tuesday.
Authorities grappled on Wednesday, March 11, to find clues as to why the 27-year-old Alabama man shot dead 10 people, including his mother, before killing himself after a gunbattle with police and a car chase down a rural highway.
Michael McLendon, who lived with his mother, killed five of his victims in Tuesday’s shooting spree at a mobile home in Samson, in southeastern Alabama, news agencies quoted local authorities and Wynnton Melton, mayor of nearby Geneva, as saying.
The victims at the mobile home included the wife of a local deputy sheriff and her child. He also killed two people at a convenience store and a man in a pickup truck who died during a car chase as McLendon apparently fired at random, said Melton.
It was not immediately clear whether the gunman in Germany had been inspired by the U.S. violence.
Wednesday’s attack was the latest in several school shootings that have shocked Germany in past years. In 2006, a masked man wearing explosives and brandishing rifles opened fire at a school in the western German town of Emsdetten, wounding at least 11 people before committing suicide.
In April 2002, Germany suffered its worst school shooting when a gunman killed 17 people, including himself, at a high school in the eastern city of Erfurt.
Wednesday’s shootings also underscored wider concerns over violence and threats against school children in other parts of Europe.
In January a 20-year-old man allegedly killed two toddlers and a teacher in a knife attack at a Belgian nursery. (BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).