Authorities in Germany report that the death toll from Thursday night’s shooting at a Jehovah’s Witnesses hall in Hamburg has risen to eight, including the alleged shooter. According to police, the shooter acted alone, and his reason remains unknown. The police say several people were hurt, some of them critically.
According to Spiegel’s sources, the shooter was a former Jehovah’s Witness in his mid-thirties who was not previously known to be a radical. Spiegel claims that the man established a website offering her consulting work in several fields (including theology) for upwards of $260,000 each day.
According to reports, police were called to the location at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, when they discovered several bodies and injured people. A police spokeswoman said, “Then they heard a gunfire from above, so they went upstairs and found one more person.” Reuters cites this information. Several shots were fired from a ground-floor window of the hall, and witnesses say a man dressed in black fired them before fleeing upstairs.
The head of Hamburg’s police union says he believes the swift arrival of a special operations team “distracted the attacker and may have spared other victims,” the AP writes. Reports from the site indicate that members of the armed unit were present for reasons unconnected to the incident.
Former Hamburg mayor and current German chancellor Olaf Scholz called the shooting “a horrific act of violence,” according to The Guardian. A spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States, David Semonian, said on Friday that the congregation “grieves for the victims of this tragic incident” around the world.
Pastoral care for people impacted by the tragedy is being provided by the elders of local congregations, he added. An estimated 170,000 people in Germany are part of the denomination’s 8.7 million total worldwide members.