Germany, April 26, 2002:
An expelled student, dressed in all black,
stalked through the hallways shooting teachers and at least 2 students
before taking his own life.
"HILFE" the sign in a classroom window
called for "HELP" (hilfe) as an expelled student stalked the hallways and shot
teachers and students. "It was chilling. I saw this big placard with
the word "Help" on it and people moving around behind it but I
couldn't tell if they were children or attackers," a witness told
German broadcaster RTL.
The scene is Gutenberg Gymnasium (High School), in the
eastern city of Erfurt. It has a student population of about 750 ranging in
age from 13 – 19. At the time of this writing, Police are still searching
the school for a possible second gunman who may be holding hostages.
"I heard shooting and thought it was a joke,"
Melanie Steinbrueck, 13, told the Associated Press. "But then I saw a
teacher dead in the hallway in front of Room 209 and a gunman in black
carrying a weapon."
never thought anything like this could ever happen in a place like
Erfurt," said Thomas Rethfeldt, 18, whose teacher was shot in
the head as she opened the door at the start of the shooting.
"I thought this must be a bad film. I thought this kind of
thing only happened in America."
The scale of the murder, rivaling some of the worst school killings
ever, stunned Germans, who long felt they had some of the toughest
gun-control laws in the world and were removed from the type of
wanton violence that has haunted the United States.
Juliane Blank, 13, added: "The guy was dressed all in
black -- gloves, cap, everything was black. He must have opened the door
without being heard and forced his way into the classroom. We ran out into
the hallways. We just wanted to get out."
"There was a teacher with us. Somebody was shot in
the leg," another student said.
Police helicopters were flying above and ambulances
circled the building. As groups of dazed and shocked students huddled in the
street, hugging and crying, a police officer with a megaphone urged parents
to register their children's names before leaving the scene.
Mafred Etzel, a Police spokesman, told a German television
reporter that the gunman was believed to have locked himself in a room
before shooting himself. He said 80 pupils were in the building still,
though they had been moved to the first floor.
Reporter Ralf Goehring said there was "great
confusion" outside the school with pupils wanting to help their
Crisis Response Training]
"Pupils are in shock," he added.
This shooting comes just two months after another German
school experienced a similar shooting event by a distraught former student.
In that shooting the school principal in Freising,
Germany was killed.
The Day after Germany Morns the most horrifying
School Shooting ever.
How can we STOP the VIOLENCE?
Student said, "I thought this must be a bad film. I thought
this kind of thing only happened in America!"
In Germany a special church service was held Friday night hours after the
shooting that day . Flags were lowered to half-staff.
The shooting left two female pupils, 13 teachers, a school secretary and
a police officer killed ( Fighting back tears, police chief Rainer Grube
said: "It was the policeman's daughter's birthday today.") by a recently expelled student. Another six people
were wounded, police said. Police said they were checking reports he
sent a fellow pupil a mobile phone message
warning him not to come to school that day.
"We cannot find words for what we feel in Germany right now,"
President Johannes Rau said, according to The Associated Press.
"Germany is in mourning in the face of these incomprehensible
The gunman, dressed all in black and armed with a handgun and a
pump-action gun, searched corridors, rooms and toilets inside the school,
seeking out adults and then gunning them down, police chief Manfred Grube
told a news conference.
History teacher Rainer Heise said he and the gunman came across each
other in a hallway, and Steinhaeuser suddenly took off the mask.
"I said: 'Pull the trigger. If you shoot me now, then look in my
eyes'," Heise said on ZDF television. "So he looks at me, lowers
the pistol and says: 'That's enough for today, Mr. Heise."'
Heise said he then pushed the gunman into a classroom, slammed the door and
locked it, took the key and ran down to the principal's office.
Soon afterward, police commandos swarmed into the building, and
Steinhaeuser fatally shot himself.
One witness said that there were scattered in hallways, classrooms and
bathrooms. The dead police officer was shot earlier before the school was
The attack began at about 11 a.m. local time (0900 GMT) Friday.
Describing the scene at the Gutenberg Gymnasium School as a "picture
of horror," Grube said the 19-year-old gunman fled German special
forces as they stormed the building, and then shot himself in a classroom.
Police were fired upon when they first entered the school. They retreated
and formed a blockade around it.
Police told found the gunman dead with 500 rounds of ammunition still
available to him.
Friday's massacre was the worst school shooting since 16 children and a
teacher died at Dunblane in Scotland six years ago.
What can be done? Officials say School Personnel and Police
can act before plans for violence escalate into action by being trained
to know what to look for and how to check/assess for "advance
warning" from students who might be planning attacks.
Shootings in Germany
Germany, November 1999: A 15-year-old student in Meissen, eastern
Germany, stabbed his teacher to death after taking bets from classmates he
would dare commit the crime.
He was later jailed for seven years.
Germany, March 2000: A 16-year-old pupil at a private boarding
school in the Bavarian town of Branneburg, shot a 57-year-old teacher, who
later died from injuries.
The teenager - who also shot himself - was facing expulsion from school
after failing a cannabis test.
Germany, February 2002: [click
here to learn more] A former pupil killed his headmaster
and set off pipe bombs in the technical school he had recently been expelled
from in Freising near Munich.
The man also shot dead his boss and a foreman at the company he worked
for before turning the gun on himself. Another teacher was shot in the face,
Once again we ask ourselves, "Have we done all that
we can to insure the safety of our schools?" Keys To Safer Schools.com
is making a special offer to any school to review your crisis planning and
provide a written critique of any shortcomings found. To take advantage of
this offer, mail your school’s Crisis Plan and supporting documents to:
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P.O. Box 296
Bryant, AR 72089-0296.
Visit the Keys website for valuable information and
resource material on school violence prevention at http://keystosaferschools.com.
Programs to Combat Violence
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