Eight killed in shooting at Jehovah’s Witness hall in Germany

A shooting at a Jehovah’s Witness saloon in the German city of Hamburg has killed eight people, apparently including the perpetrator, police said Friday. An unspecified number of other people were injured, some seriously.

Police gave the figure on their website. There was still no information on the possible motive for the Thursday night shooting that stunned Germany’s second-largest city. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg, described the shooting as “a brutal act of violence.”

Police said overnight that they believe there was only one shooter, and that it could be a person who was found dead in the building.

Investigators worked through the night to secure the evidence. On Friday morning, forensic investigators in protective white suits could still be seen outside the building as a light snow fell. Officers placed yellow cones on the ground and on window frames to mark evidence.

Hamburg officials said there would be a press conference on Friday afternoon to discuss the details.

David Semonian, a US-based spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in an emailed statement early Friday that members “around the world mourn the victims of this traumatic event.”

“Congregational elders in the local area provide pastoral care to those affected by the event,” he wrote. “We understand that the authorities are still investigating the details of this crime. We appreciate the courageous help provided by the police and emergency services.”

The scene of the shooting was the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a square, three-story building next to an auto repair shop in the Gross Borstel district, a few kilometers (miles) from central Hamburg.

Police spokesman Holger Vehren said police were alerted to the shooting around 9:15 p.m. and arrived at the scene quickly.

He said that after officers arrived and found people with apparent gunshot wounds downstairs, they heard a shot from an upper floor and found a fatally wounded person upstairs who may have been a shooter. He said that the police did not have to use their firearms.

Student Laura Bauch, who lives nearby, said there were around four periods of shooting, German news agency dpa reported. “There were always multiple shots in these periods, at roughly 20-second to minute intervals,” she said.

He said he looked out the window and saw a person running from the ground floor to the second floor of the Jehovah’s Witness hall.

Gregor Miesbach, who lives within sight of the building, was alerted by the sound of gunshots and filmed a figure entering the building through a window. Then shots can be heard from inside. Later, the figure apparently emerges from the hallway, is seen in the courtyard, then fires more shots inside.

Miesbach told the German television news agency NonstopNews that he heard at least 25 shots. After police arrived, he followed up with a final shot about five minutes later, he said.

His video showed a person firing multiple shots into the building through a first-floor window before the lights inside the room went out.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are part of an international church, founded in the United States in the 19th century and headquartered in Warwick, New York. It claims a worldwide membership of around 8.7 million, with around 170,000 in Germany.

Members are known for their evangelistic efforts that include knocking on doors and distributing literature in public squares. The denomination’s hallmark practices include refusing to bear arms, receive blood transfusions, salute a national flag, or participate in secular government. ___ Moulson reported from Berlin. Associated Press writer David Rising contributed to this report from Bangkok.

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