Gunman kills 6 at Hamburg Jehovah’s Witnesses hall
HAMBURG, GERMANY — A gunman stormed a service at his former Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Hamburg, killing six people before taking his own life after police arrived, authorities in the German port city said Friday.
Police gave no motive for Thursday night’s attack. But they acknowledged recently receiving an anonymous tip that claimed the man identi- fied as the shooter showed anger toward Jehovah’s Witnesses and might be psychologically unfit to own a gun.
Eight people were wounded, including a woman who was 28 weeks pregnant and lost the baby. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the death toll could rise.
Officers appar e ntly reached the hall, a boxy building next to an auto repair shop a few miles from downtown, while the attack was ongoing — and heard one more shot after they arrived, according to witnesses and authorities. They did not fire their weapons, but officials said their intervention likely prevented further loss of life.
Scholz, a former Hamburg mayor, lamented the “terrible incident in my home city.”
are speechless in view of this violence,” Scholz said at an event in Munich. “We are mourning those whose lives were taken so brutally.”
All of the victims were German citizens apart from two wounded women, one with Ugandan citizenship and one with Ukrainian.
Officials said the suspected gunman was a 35-year-old German national identified only as Philipp F., in line with the country’s privacy rules. Police said he had left the congregation “voluntarily, but apparently not on good terms,” about a year and a half ago.
A website registered in the name of someone who fits the police description of the suspected gunman says that he grew up in the Bavarian town of Kempten in “a strict religious evangelical household.”
The site, which is filled with business jargon, also links to a self-published book about “God, Jesus Christ and Satan.”
Philipp F. legally owned a semi-automatic Heckler & Koch Pistole P30 handgun, according to police. He fired more than 100 shots during the attack — and the head of the Hamburg prosecutors office, Ralf Peter Anders, said hundreds more rounds were found in a search of the man’s apartment.
Germany’s gun laws are more restrictive than those in the United States, but per- missive compared with some European neighbors, and shootings are not unheard of.
Last year, an 18-year-old man opened fire in a packed lecture at Heidelberg University, killing one person and wounding three others before killing himself.
In the most recent shooting involving a site of worship, a far-right extremist attempted to force his way into a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur in 2019. After failing to gain entry, he shot two people to death nearby.
The German government announced plans last year to crack down on gun ownership by suspected extremists and to tighten background checks. Currently, anyone wanting to acquire a firearm must show that they are suited to do so, including by proving that they require a gun. Reasons can include being part of a sports shooting club or being a hunter.
Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer said the man was visited by police after they received an anonymous tip in January, claiming he “bore particular anger toward religious believers, in particular toward Jehovah’s Witnesses and his former employer.”
Officers said the man was cooperative and found no grounds to take away his weapon, according to Meyer.