Home / World / Anonymous tip-off failed to stop shooting in Hamburg

Anonymous tip-off failed to stop shooting in Hamburg

The gunman's apartment was raided by police and they discovered 15 loaded magazines
Lights and flowers laid in front of the building of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Alsterdorf district, Hamburg.
Lights and flowers laid in front of the building of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Alsterdorf district, Hamburg.
Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle   |   Published 11.03.23, 05:48 PM

Police, prosecutors and state officials provided details on Friday about a rampage the night before at the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in the northern German city of Hamburg. Despite receiving a prior tip-off about the gunman's psychological state, authorities were unable to prevent the shooting.

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany said the religious community was "deeply saddened by the horrific attack on its members at the Kingdom Hall in Hamburg after a religious service."


What do we know about the victims?

Four men and two women aged between 33 and 60 were killed in the shooting. They were all German citizens.

An unborn baby was among those pronounced dead.

Eight people were wounded, four of them seriously. An Ugandan and an Ukrainian citizen were among the victims. Of those injured, there were six women and two men, police said.

What do we know about the gunman?

Police identified the gunman as Philipp F., a 35-year-old German citizen.

Philipp F. comes from Memmingen in Bavaria, grew up in Kempten (Allgäu) and studied in Munich. According to dpa information, he has been registered in Hamburg since 2015.

The gunman killed himself after police stormed the building, said Andy Grote, the regional interior minister.

He was a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer said he had a weapons license and legally owned a semi-automatic pistol.

The perpetrator had no criminal record, but had been in touch with authorities to report suspected fraud, Hamburg's state prosecutor said.

The motive for Philipp F.'s rampage is not known, though any political motive has been ruled out, the state prosecutor said.

Police said they had an anonymous tip alleging Philipp F. was possibly suffering from a psychological disorder and should not be in possession of firearms.

Based on the tip, authorities made an unannounced visit to his home and in the course of their conversation did not see a cause for concern.

What do we know about the police response to the shooting?

The scene of the shooting in Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city, was the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, in the city's Gross Borstel neighborhood. The house of worship is a modern and boxy three-story building.

Police were alerted to the shooting around 9:15 p.m. (2015 UTC/GMT) on Thursday. Police from a headquarters less than a kilometer away quickly responded to the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall.

When armed police entered the building, they saw the gunman run upstairs, where he was later found dead.

Police did not fire their weapons in the building.

As many as 50 people were in the building at the time of the attack.

The perpetrator is thought to have entered the building through a window he had shot open.

Philipp F. was found carrying two magazines with 15 bullets each, as well as 20 loaded magazines in a backpack.

Authorities searched the perpetrator's home and found hundreds of bullets. They confiscated a computer and other documents that are being evaluated.

Grote, the regional interior minister, called it the "worst crime in our city's recent history," adding that "fast and decisive action" and quick response by police had "very likely" saved lives.

Vehicles transporting the dead bodies left the scene a little before noon, DW correspondent Max Zander reported.

How have German leaders responded?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the shooting a "brutal act of violence" and said his thoughts were with the "victims and their families. And with the security forces who have faced a difficult operation."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his thoughts were with the victims and their families. "You have my deepest sympathy on this painful day... I wish the injured a speedy recovery," Cerstin Gammelin, the president's spokesperson, tweeted to convey on his behalf.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said authorities were working urgently to investigate the crime and traveled to Hamburg. In a tweet issued by her ministry, Faeser said: "It is hard to put into words what terrible thing happened here," while offering her condolonces to the bereaved.

Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher tweeted that the news was “shocking” and offered his sympathy to the victims’ relatives

How have others responded?

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted to say, "Terrible news from Hamburg. I extend France's condolences to the relatives of the victims and to all our German friends. Our thoughts are with you."

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson expressed sorrow and said her thoughts were with the victims and their families.

What to know about Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany

Jehovah's Witnesses, which has about 8.7 million members around the world, are part of an international church founded in the United States in the 19th century.

They have roughly 170,000 members in Germany and are headquartered in Warwick, New York.

The pacifist religious group's practices include a refusal to bear arms, receive blood transfusions, salute a national flag or participate in secular government.

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