A gunman in Germany stormed and fired bullets inside a building used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg on the evening of March 9th, killing seven people and injuring many others before taking his own life.
Seven people were killed in a mass shooting at a Jehovah’s Witnesses hall in northern Germany, local police said https://t.co/s8zXiGUnuv
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 10, 2023
The mass shooting incident happened at a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall near an auto repair shop, a modern and squarish building close to the city center of Germany’s second biggest city.
Hamburg authorities believed the suspect acted alone in the incident. Local media reported that a specialized armed unit of the city’s police was already near the scene at around 9:15 PM when they heard gunshots from the building. The authorities then responded and entered the building while the attack was ongoing.
According to police spokesperson Holger Vehren, police officers found victims with gunshot wounds on the ground floor of the building after they quickly arrived at the scene. They heard a shot on the upper floor and discovered the fatally wounded shooter, possibly attempting to take his own life.
Although police did not use their weapons during the shooting, their intervention likely prevented further loss of life. The shootout claimed the lives of eight people and wounded many others, including a woman who was 28 weeks pregnant and lost the baby to the incident. All of the victims were German citizens except for two women, who held Ugandan and Ukrainian citizenship.
Unborn baby among shooting victims at Jehovah's Witness hall in Germany - gunman was former member of the religious group, police say https://t.co/4hpSK7n7eN
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) March 10, 2023
After the news of the incident, police conducted a major operation in the city’s Gross Borstel district, where the shootout happened. Several streets were closed off, and the authorities informed the public through a text message to avoid the area.
Reports from the Associated Press and the Guardian identified the suspect as a 35-year-old German man named Philipp F., a former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. German authorities said he left the denomination “voluntarily, but apparently not on good terms” 18 months ago.
Based on an anonymous tip, German police also claimed that Philipp F. might have been psychologically unfit to own a gun and showed anger towards the congregation.
Nevertheless, the shooter legally owned a Heckler & Koch Pistole P30 handgun. Authorities said he fired more than 100 shots during the attack, and they discovered hundred more rounds in his apartment.
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was once the mayor of Hamburg, expressed his shock and sent condolences to families of the victims, describing the act as a “brutal act of violence.”
Chancellor Scholz: terrible news from Hamburg . Several members of a Jehovah's Witness hall fell victim to a brutal act of violence last night. My thoughts are with them and their families. And with the security forces, who have experienced a difficult operation. https://t.co/2udzftA3hd
— German Embassy London (@GermanEmbassy) March 10, 2023
A US-based spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, David Semonian, said in an email to the Associated Press that members of the congregation “worldwide grieve for the victims of this traumatic event.”
Mass shootings have rocked Germany recently, often perpetrated by far-right extremists and neo-Nazis against certain groups. In 2019, a far-right extremist tried to force his way into a synagogue in Halle during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The suspect could not enter the religious building but killed two people nearby.