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  • Marie-Carla Rekate

The Hamburg Shooting

Around 9pm on the 9th of march, Phillip F. approached the Jehovah’s witness meeting hall, the cult he had been a member in for years. Then he pulled out his weapon, stepped to a window in the ground floor and pulled the trigger again and again and again.

It was a Thursday evening like any other. The Jehova’s witnesses were attending their regular assembly in the “Königsreichssaal” located on Deelböge street in Hamburg. This assembly of about 50 people had begun at 19 o’clock and more than 2 hours later the first emergency call came to report that shots had been fired. At around ten past nine the first police forces arrived and were shortly joined by special forces. The officers had to break windows to enter the building. The culprit was identified as thirty-five-year-old, German “sports shooter” Phillip F. who fled from the officers. He was seen by witnesses frantically rushing up the stairs to the first floor where the police later found his lifeless body. He had shot himself. The motive for this act of violence is still unknown.

This act that was possibly motivated by revenge, took the life of 8 people. Four men, three women and an unborn baby, whose mother got away with a bullet wound in the stomach. All of them were German nationals living in Hamburg. Twenty-five further people were injured by the shots fired at the church. Four of them are still in critical conditions.

The German senator Andy Grote later stated that the “fast and decisive actions” by police officershad saved many lives. Their rapid arrival had stopped Phillip F. from firing any more shots. He had already managed to shoot nine magazines of ammunition each with almost 15 shots. In his shoulder bag he had another 20 magazines. This means that Phillip F. could have shot another 150 bullets injuring and possibly killing many more people who had attended the assembly. Andy Grote also described the attack as the “ worst crime” in Hamburg’s recent history.

The police forces later confirmed that they had previously received an anonymous tip-off, about the mental health of gun owner Phillip F. Germany has some of the strictest laws in Europe concerning the ownership of firearms. This includes a clause that anyone who wants to be approved for a gun license and is aged under 25 must pass a psychological evaluation before doing so. This is why police immediately investigated after hearing claims that Phillip F. may be struggling with his mental health. However, the unannounced investigation and searching of Phillip’s property didn’t lead to any findings that could have allowed the police to take any measures against him. The pistol used in the attack is also used as a service weapon for the German police forces and since December, Phillip had been in legally possessed this weapon. After having searched the house of Philip F and found the weapon had been safely locked in a safe, the investigating forces left again, with nothing suspicious to report.

Even though the motive for this shooting is “still completely unclear” the connection the shooter had with the witnesses of Jehovah is already known. The Jehovah’s witnesses are members of a Christian-based religious movement founded in the United States of America at the end of the 19th century. They are probably best known for their evangelic door-to-door work, where they go from house to house offering Bible literature. Around 170,000 people follow this movement in Germany, around 4000 of them believed to live in the city of Hamburg. Phillip F. came from a very Christian family and even wrote a book about religious theses which he published a few months ago. He was a former member of the Jehova’s witnesses, but one and a half years ago he “voluntarily” left the sect.He however he didn’t leave on good terms. The motive still isn’t clear. The officers investigating the case are currently excluding the chance that it was a politically motivated deed.

Mourners have left many floral tributes near the front doors of the crime scene. Many of them crying for the victims and their families. This attack is the latest in a row of several mass shootings in Germany in recent years. And it is hoped that the German government will be forced to make stricter laws regarding who is allowed to own firearms and ammunition.

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