(Hamburg) A former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses killed six people in his former community in Hamburg, Germany, with whom he was in conflict, before killing himself.
The man identified as Philipp F., 35, is suspected of killing four men and two women between the ages of 33 and 60 Thursday evening during a prayer session, authorities said Friday.
A pregnant woman, injured in the shooting, lost her seven-month-old fetus, which local police counted among the victims to bring its death toll to eight in total.
The former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who probably suffered from mental problems, killed himself on the spot, after the intervention of the police.
Eight people were injured, four of them seriously. The rapid arrival of the police, who interrupted his act, made it possible to avoid an even heavier toll, authorities said. The shooter had plenty of ammunition.
” Rage ”
His motives remain to be determined, although he did not leave the community “on good terms”, according to the police. The testimonies differ on the point of knowing if he was excluded from it or if he left of his own free will.
The man, who had no criminal history, “nurtured a rage against members of religious congregations, particularly Jehovah’s Witnesses and his previous employer,” a police official told a conference Press.
The police had however received in January an “anonymous letter” affirming that Philipp F. could suffer “from a psychiatric illness without this having been certified by a doctor as Philipp F. refused to consult” a specialist.
The latter “fired on the participants in a demonstration” of prayers organized Thursday evening by the community in one of its centers in Hamburg.
He forced his way into the three-story building located on the edge of a major traffic artery facing a residential complex and a park. About fifty people according to Der Spiegel were then gathered for the prayer session.
“Our son filmed everything, by chance, he could see well from the window on the floor of our house, about 50 meters” from the center, Bernd Miebach told AFP.
“On the video, we see someone breaking a window, we hear gunshots and we see someone entering” on the scene, describes the 66-year-old entrepreneur who was not at home at the time of the events. .
Jehovah’s Witnesses said in a statement “shocked” by “the horrible attack” against some of their members, which occurred “after a religious service”.
Law enforcement “were called at around 9:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m. Eastern Time) to reports of shots being fired” at the building in the Gross Borstel neighborhood, a spokesperson for the city said. police.
“Violent act of violence”
“I heard gunshots, I recognized them straight away, because I come from a country at war,” a woman in her forties told AFP, wishing to remain anonymous. residing near the center.
“It went on for several minutes, gunfire then a pause, and again gunfire, and again a pause,” she describes.
“The police arrived very quickly, maybe 4 to 5 minutes after the shots,” said Anetta, a local resident met by AFP while walking her dog.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sent his “thoughts” to the victims of the shooting and their loved ones, deploring in a tweet “a brutal act of violence”.
Founded in the 19the century in the United States, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves the heirs of primitive Christianity and constantly and only refer to the Bible.
The status of the organization varies from country to country: they are legally considered the same as the “major” religions in Austria and Germany, which has just over 170,000 members of this faith. , including 3,800 in Hamburg, according to the Witnesses website.
In France, many of their local branches have the status of “cultual association”, and this rigorous movement is regularly accused of sectarian aberrations.