German teen kills 15; rampage began at school
Most victims female; chase ends in suicide
WINNENDEN, Germany - A 17-year-old wielding a Beretta 9 millimeter pistol burst into classrooms at his former high school yesterday and gunned down students - some of whom died with their pencils still in hand - in a rampage that ended with 15 dead before he took his own life, authorities said.
There was no immediate indication of a motive, but the gunman's victims were primarily female: eight of nine students killed were girls, and all three teachers were women. Three men were killed later as the suspect fled.
"I heard two shots and then screaming," said a 15-year-old student, Betty. "At first I thought it was a joke, but then someone called 'Run, run!' and I saw students jumping out of the windows."
The gunman - dressed in black - took students in the first classroom by surprise, evidenced by the morbid scene that awaited the first officers to arrive, said regional police director Ralf Michelfelder.
"Children were sitting at their tables, with pencils still in their hands, their heads fallen over on the table," he said.
"Most of them had shots in their head - it must have all happened in seconds."
Police identified the gunman only as Tim K. But the name on his parents' home is Kretschmer and local media identified him as Tim Kretschmer.
The dark-haired teen, shown wearing glasses in pictures on German television, apparently took the weapon from his father's collection of 15 firearms along with a multitude of ammunition, police said.
His father was a member of the local gun club and kept the weapons locked away except for the pistol, which was kept in the bedroom.
Police said the suspect was a German teen who was a below-average student at the school of about 1,000 pupils, but graduated last year. A sister attends the school.
"He was lower than average, and he wasn't engaged in school events," Michelfelder said.
Fabienne Boehm, 12, said she recently met the shooter through a friend, and that he had shown her a note three weeks ago that he then sent to his parents.
"He wrote to his parents that he's suffering and he can't go on," she said.
Boehm said that the shooter asserted that fellow students had mocked him, and that teachers ignored him.
Teenagers were sobbing and clinging to one another as they left a church service to the victims.
Police received an emergency call from the school at 9:33 a.m. The first officers responded about two minutes later, said Heribert Rech, a state interior minister.
They heard shots on the second floor and ran upstairs, catching a glimpse of the suspect on a staircase, Rech said.
He fired a shot at the police and then fled, killing his last victims in the school - two teachers - on his way out, Rech said.
"Our officers were very quick," Rech said.
"Through the immediate police intervention they were able to prevent a further escalation of the crime."
After fleeing, the suspect ran into downtown Winnenden, a city of 28,000, where he shot two people walking by a psychiatric clinic, killing one and wounding the other, police said.
The gunman then hijacked a car and forced the driver to head south while threatening his life from the back seat, triggering a land and air manhunt involving 700 police officers and four helicopters, according to Stuttgart prosecutors.
The driver swerved off the road to avoid a police checkpoint and escaped, while the suspect fled from the car into an industrial area in the city of Wendlingen, about 24 miles from Winnenden.
He entered a car dealership, where he shot and killed his final victims - a salesman and a man shopping for a car - and then went outside, prosecutors said.
He opened fire on police swarming the area, who shot back and hit the suspect, who fell wounded to the ground, Michelfelder said.
But he got back up, reloaded his weapon, and fled onto a dead-end street.
Police found him dead, having apparently shot himself in the head.
Two police officers suffered serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.
The death toll was close to that of Germany's worst school shooting.
In the 2002 shooting, Robert Steinhaeuser, 19, shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students, and a police officer before turning his gun on himself in the Gutenberg high school in Erfurt, in eastern Germany.