"Kretschmer had been receiving psychological treatment for depression, but according to the police, he had recently abandoned his therapy."
Germans bewildered after school shooting
Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2009 11:09 AM
Filed Under: Mainz, Germany
WINNENDEN, Germany – Why? That is the predominant question for the shocked residents of the small southern German town of Winnenden and for TV stations and newspapers across the country this morning.
All night, forensic experts collected evidence in search of clues that could possibly explain why 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer went on a wild rampage at his former school and killed 15 people before taking his own life on Wednesday.
During a press conference on Thursday investigators revealed more clues that may explain Kretschmer’s possible motive for the rampage.
He added that he would be visiting his former school and wrote, "Tomorrow you will hear from me, just remember the name of a place called Winnenden."
Police experts said that in the process of their investigation, they searched Kretschmer's computer, his music collection, his clothing and spoke to friends and relatives. They said they found a limited amount of pornographic material, horror films, and violent computer games such as "Counter-Strike."
Kretschmer had been receiving psychological treatment for depression, but according to the police, he had recently abandoned his therapy.
The young man was described as an unremarkable and introverted student with no criminal record. But, his shooting rampage painted a different picture.
Dressed in black, Kretschmer, a 2008 graduate of the school, entered three classrooms on Wednesday morning and shot several students at close range, firing mostly into the heads of his victims. Police officials said that only one male was among the 12 victims that were left dead at the school.
"Some of the dead children were still holding their pencils in their hands," said Erwin Hetger, the state interior minister, indicating that the shooting went very quickly and took the students by surprise.
After police intervention teams responded to the first emergency calls within two minutes, they briefly encountered the gunman inside the school before he fled on foot. He then shot a by-passer near a psychiatric clinic before kidnapping a driver in his car. When their journey ended in a small town 20 miles away, Kretschmer shot a salesman and his customer at a local car dealership, "execution style" police say.
"At that point, the gunman was randomly shooting at almost everything that moved, severely injuring two undercover police officers, who had just arrived at the scene," said Hetger.
Police said that Kretschmer had fired at least 112 shots and was in possession of more than 250 bullets.
Strict gun laws in Germany
But, how did the minor get access to the weapon and ammunition in a country that has strict weapons laws?
Gun-holders have to fulfill criteria on age and weapons expertise to obtain a firearms license. And only licensed hunters or members of gun clubs have access to pistols and rifles.
Kretschmer's father is a gun club member who kept 14 weapons locked up, but had one handgun – the one used in the rampage – laying in his bedroom and ammunition accessible in the house, according to police.
Officials say Kretschmer regularly visited the gun club with his father and that he was believed to be an experienced shooter.
While critics are using the incident to argue for even stricter gun laws, the police stressed during Thursday’s press conference that the attack should be a call for even more vigilance of teens’ behavior in chat rooms, in schools, and with their families.
A town paralyzed, a nation in shock
"Nobody can understand it," said Roberto Seifert, who works near the school. "You can see it in the faces of the police too. Everyone is in shock. The mood's very subdued here."
Last night, the center of Winnenden resembled a ghost town. Many restaurants and bars remained closed. The biggest gathering of residents could be seen outside the high school, where many young students and their parents put down candles and flowers.
In small groups, teenagers were flocking to the crime scene, many crying, seeking the support of their friends and classmates.
"It is a shock that sits very, very deep. My daughter lost one of her teachers," the mother of one student, who did not want to be identified, said last night.
The Albertville high school in Winnenden remained closed Thursday. Students from the school were receiving counseling from psychologists and clergymen, while the terrifying incident left the town in shock and continued to be the talk of the day.
Meanwhile police say that they have received numerous phone calls in the last 24-hours threatening copy-cat attacks in other cities across Germany.