A 17-year-old youth killed 15 people in a shooting rampage in Germany that began at his former school and ended in a wild shootout in the parking lot of a car dealer. According to the latest information from police, after he was struck in the leg in a shootout with officers, he committed suicide by firing a bullet from his own gun into his head.
As the investigation began in earnest on Wednesday, the one thing that stood out to investigators was that the majority of victims were female. Seven of the victims were girl students, and three were female teachers. However, the interior minister of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where the crime was committed Wednesday, said he didn't want to draw early conclusions given that it could have been based on how classes had been drawn up. He added, however, that the fact that most were killed with shots to the head suggested the killer had not randomly selected his victims.
The crime began when the teenager walked into the Albertville secondary school in the southwestern town of Winnenden at 9.30 a.m and opened fire in two classrooms, killing 10 pupils -- all aged 14 and 15 -- and three women teachers, as well as wounding several others.
He then fled, shooting dead a further person on his way, as police evacuated the school and mounted a massive, three-hour manhunt with helicopters and sniffer dogs. He hijacked a car and forced the driver to take him to the town of Wendlingen 40 kilometers away.
Police located him and there was a final shootout in which he killed two more bystanders and seriously wounded two police officers before he comitted suicide.
It was the worst shooting in Germany since the Erfurt school massacre in 2002 in which a former former student killed 15 people before turning the gun on himself.
"This is a day of sorrow for the whole of Germany," Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the families and relatives. We're thinking of them and praying for them."
Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen said: "This is shattering. We must ask how we can prevent this, and what motivates people to commit such shootings."
Teenager 'Inconspicuous', 'Frustrated'
The teenager, who has been named as Tim K.*, was described by teachers as inconspicuous. He had left the school last year after obtaining his secondary school certificate, and had begun an apprenticeship. "He evidently had a double identity," said Helmut Rau, the education minister of the southern state of Baden-Württemberg
One former classmate told SPIEGEL ONLINE that K., an only child, had been "deeply frustrated." But his motive remains unknown.
Media reports said the teenager's parents had 18 licensed firearms in their home, and that he had used one of the weapons, an Italian-made Beretta pistol, for the shooting. His father belongs to a gun club and may face prosecution if it turns out that he didn't keep them sufficiently locked up.
He walked quietly through the corridors of the school, entered the classrooms and fired off rounds indiscriminately, police said. "He went into the school with a gun and caused a bloodbath. I've never seen anything like it," said Baden-Württemberg regional police chief Erwin Hetger.
Winnenden has around 27,600 inhabitants and lies 20 kilometers northeast of Stuttgart. Schools of its type teach pupils between the ages of 10 and 16.
German news channel N-TV reported that there was chaos around the school complex as anxious parents began gathering there. "You can see the shock and horror in people's eyes," one eyewitness said.
Police closed off much of Winnenden during the search. "The whole town resembled a fortress," one eyewitness said.
Six hours after the shooting, the bodies were still in the classrooms while forensic experts combed the scene.
"Millions of people around the country are saddened by what has happened," said the governor of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Günther Oettinger.
Debate About School Safety
The massacre has led to a fierce debate about the causes of such shootings and the need for greater security in schools.
The German Police Federation, Konrad Freiberg, proposed fitting schools with doors that could only be opened with personalized swipe cards.
But the president of the German Federation of Teachers, Josef Kraus, said such systems would only give a false sense of security. "If someone wants to go on a rampage, he can also target a schoolbus and there's nothing you can do about it," he said.
Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy parliamentary leader of Merkel's conservatives, said was too soon to draw conclusions from the shooting.
"We must examine the causes and the background of this crime," Bosbach said. He warned against turning the country's schools into "maximum security facilities."
*German privacy laws prevent us from immediately giving his full name until circumstances have been clarified