New Delhi: The police had received a tip-off two months ago about the mental health of the man who shot and killed seven people including an unborn baby at Jehovah’s Witnesses hall in the German city of Hamburg on Thursday. The man cooperated and the authorities didn’t have enough grounds to take away the gun at the time. The 35-year-old man, Philipp F, who was a former member of the congregation, had a licence for his weapon for sporting purposes, the BBC reported.
The weapons control authority had received an anonymous letter in January which raised concerns about the man, saying that he had appeared angry with his former fellow church members, according to news agency AP. The letter suggested that he might be suffering from an undiagnosed psychological illness. The police stated that there was no terrorist connection and said he left the church community about 18 months ago, “but apparently not on good terms.”
The suspect had a gun permit as a marksman since December 2022 and was in legal possession of a Heckler & Koch P30.
When the police visited Fusz last month, he was cooperative and convinced officers that there was no cause for concern. As per the Guardian, he was just given a warning for not keeping the weapon in a safe.
Police chief Ralf Martin Meyer told the press that the suspect did not have a criminal record either, hence there were no legal grounds to take away the weapon.
The Guardian quoted local media as identifying the man as Philipp Fusz, a freelance business consultant. On Thursday night, the man killed four men and two women aged 33 to 60. Eight people were injured, including a woman who was seven months pregnant. She survived but her unborn baby was killed. Six of those are German citizens, one is from Uganda, and the other is from Ukraine. It is the first mass shooting in Hamburg.
Fusz turned the gun on himself after a special forces unit stormed the hall and chased him to the first floor.
Hamburg’s senator for interior affairs, Andy Grote, said: “It’s a horrible act. We have not had a mass attack of this magnitude. It is the worst crime in our city’s recent history.”
At 9 pm, Thursday night, Fusz arrived at Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall two hours into service and turned the gun to a woman sitting in her car. He fired 10 bullets but she managed to get away, The Guardian reported. He then moved towards a window at the northern side of the building, opened a window, and got inside the hall where 36 people had gathered.
By 9:04 pm Fusz had shot a total of 135 rounds with his semi-automatic gun, as per The Guardian. The emergency services received 47 phone calls seeking help. Police arrived at the scene at 9:08 pm and a minute later the special operations support unit gained access to the building by shooting at the door knob. They chased Fusz upstairs, but with nowhere to run he turned the gun to himself.
When the police recovered a backpack full of ammunition and when they raided his house they found 15 loaded magazines with 15 cartridges each, and four boxes of ammunition containing another 200 cartridges.
Germany has some of Europe’s strictest gun control regulations. Last year, the interior minister announced that the government intended to strengthen gun control in response to a suspected far-right organisation’s conspiracy to violently topple the state.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a Christian-based religious movement, founded in the US at the end of the 19th Century. As per BBC, there are about 8.7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, including about 170,000 in Germany.