Police Were Tipped Off About Hamburg Shooter

Officers visited man's home in January, but didn't take his legally-owned weapon
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2023 4:54 AM CST
Updated Mar 10, 2023 9:35 AM CST
8, Including Gunman, Dead in Germany Mass Shooting
Police secure a street outside a Jehovah's Witness building in Hamburg, Germany Friday, March 10, 2023.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
UPDATE Mar 10, 2023 9:35 AM CST

The man who attacked a Jehovah's Witnesses hall in Hamburg Thursday night killed four men, two women, and the unborn baby of a woman who was seven months pregnant and survived the shooting, police said Friday, per the AP. Police said they received an anonymous tip about the gunman in January from somebody concerned about his mental health and purchase of ammunition, but officers who visited his home found no cause for concern and he was allowed to keep his legally owned handgun, the Guardian reports. Thomas Radszuweit, Hamburg's head of state security, said the gunman was a former Jehovah's Witness who left the community around 18 months ago, "but apparently not on good terms." The gunman, identified only as 35-year-old Philipp F, killed himself after officers arrived at the scene.

Mar 10, 2023 4:54 AM CST

The death toll from a mass shooting at a Jehovah's Witnesses hall in Hamburg on Thursday night now stands at eight, including the suspected gunman, authorities in Germany say. Police say the gunman apparently acted alone and his motive is unclear, the BBC reports. Several people were injured, some seriously, police say. Sources tell Spiegel that the shooter was a 35-year-old former Jehovah's Witness who was not known as an extremist. According to Spiegel, the man ran a "strange" website in which he offered his services as a consultant in areas including theology—for more than $260,000 per day.

Police say they were called to the scene around 9pm Thursday and found dead and injured victims. "Then they heard a shot from above, they went upstairs and found one further person," a police spokesperson says, per Reuters. Witnesses say they saw a man in dark clothing firing many shots through a window of the hall's ground floor before running upstairs. The head of Hamburg's police union says he believes the fast arrival of a special operations unit "distracted the perpetrator and may have prevented further victims," the AP reports. According to local media, members of the armed unit were near the scene for unrelated reasons when the shooting was reported.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, condemned the shooting as "a brutal act of violence," the Guardian reports. David Semonian, a US-based Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman, said Friday that members "worldwide grieve for the victims of this traumatic event." He added: "The congregation elders in the local area are providing pastoral care for those affected by the event." The denomination has around 8.7 million members worldwide, including 170,000 in Germany, per the AP. (Read more Germany stories.)

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