School Shooting in Winnenden: Flags in Germany are Flying at Half-Mast
Tim K. was by all accounts a quiet but friendly boy, say those who knew him - then he became a mass murderer. Police are trying to find out what made him kill 15 people and finally himself.
People are mourning the dead of the Winnenden school shooting across Germany on Thursday. But especially, as here, in Winnenden itself.
Flags in Germany are flying at half-mast on Thursday as the entire country tries to come to grips with what happened in the small town of Winnenden on Wednesday. Church services are being held across the country in memory of the 15 victims of the massacre, including one planned for Thursday in far-away Berlin.
But in the small town itself, just outside of Stuttgart in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, police have been busy. As pupils from the Albertville secondary school -- scene of much of the violence -- and residents of Winnenden mourned the loss of friends and family, investigators spent the night looking for clues hinting why Tim K.* would take his father's Beretta and try to kill as many people as he possibly could.
At a midday press conference on Thursday, Baden-Württemberg Interior Minister Heribert Rech reported that at 2:46 a.m. in the night before the shooting, a message was posted in an Internet forum that was believed to have been written by Tim K. Later in the evening**, police officials corrected this statement. There were no clues that the message in the forum really was written by Tim K.
Tim K., who has a younger sister, was by all accounts a quiet but friendly boy, say those who knew him. He enjoyed playing table tennis and lifting weights. There was little indication that he was capable of the violence that he visited upon the Albertville school on Wednesday. Indeed, police said on Thursday, he had a room in the basement of the house where he often entertained his friends, with his parents providing snacks.
Police said K. spent a lot of time in his room, much of it spent in front of his computer. In addition to violent video games, police also found pornography on his computer, but "nothing out of the ordinary," a police spokesman said. He was, however, very interested in guns and had a number of air guns mounted on the walls of his room. His father was a member at the local gun club and possessed 15 weapons. K. would periodically accompany him to the club for shooting practice.
But behind K.'s outward normality, there is also evidence that he was far from satisfied with his life. He may have felt bullied by others at the school, according to reports from pupils at Albertville secondary school, which K. attended until he graduated last year. In 2008, he also received treatment for depression at a psychological clinic, making five visits. He stopped going to treatment soon afterwards, however.
One of those killed on Wednesday was a gardener on the grounds of the Winnenden psychological clinic. The clinic was right next to the school and police declined to connect the shooting with K.'s earlier treatment.
In total, K. shot and killed nine pupils at the school -- seven of them girls -- and three female teachers. After shooting the gardener, he hijacked a car and forced its driver to take him to the town of Wendlingen, some 40 kilometers away.
In Wendlingen, police said on Thursday, he walked into a car dealership and demanded a vehicle. He then shot and killed a sales representative and a customer in the dealership. Two other people managed to escape out the back, but K. shot repeatedly at police as they approached the building. Two officers were seriously wounded and both remain in intensive care on Thursday. After leaving the dealership, K. turned the weapon on himself.
In all, says Interior Minister Rech, the shooter fired 112 shots, 60 of them at the school. He was found with around 110 rounds that he hadn't yet used. Officials say that police arrived at the school just two minutes after the first emergency call and that the quick response likely prevented an even bigger blood bath. The school's principal likewise warned teachers with a pre-arranged code message over the intercom suggesting an attack was tacking place.
Police say that they have not opened a formal investigation into K.'s father, who had licenses for the guns at his home. K.'s family, police said on Thursday, have left their home and are now staying at an undisclosed location.
*German privacy laws prevent us from immediately giving his full name until circumstances have been clarified
**Annotation: In an earlier version, this article had the headline "Killer Posted Chatroom Message Before Massacre". Due to the correction of police officials in the evening, SPIEGEL ONLINE adjusted it. We apologize for the misleading title.
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