Souad Mekhennet, Washington Post, July 23, 2016
Munich authorities said Saturday that the gunman who went on a rampage at a shopping center Friday, leaving nine people dead, had no ties to the Islamic State or other extremist groups. Instead, police believe he was obsessed with mass killings and may have been mentally ill.
The southern German city’s police chief said investigators had found a trove of electronic data and written materials at the suspect’s home suggesting that he had extensively researched shooting sprees before he went on one of his own Friday afternoon. The items recovered included a book by a U.S. academic on school shootings titled “Rampage in the Head: Why Students Kill.”
Later on Saturday afternoon, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the killer’s motives were still being investigated but there were not believed to be links to international terrorist groups.
Maziere said instead that the killer had been “bullied by peers” and that violent video games had likely played a role in inspiring the attack.
Of the victims, Maizière said the young age of many of them “will break your heart.”
“How is it possible for society to prevent these attacks?” he asked, without providing an answer.
The killer’s full name has not been disclosed. But a spokesman for the Munich prosecutor’s office said he was an 18-year-old dual Iranian-German national who was born and raised in Munich and was associated with two first names: David and Ali. He did not have a criminal record, but “may have had a mental disorder,” according to Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, Munich’s prosecutor. Maizière said the use of David as a first name may suggest the killer had converted to Christianity from Islam. But his parents said he was not a practicing member of any religion.
Prosecutors said they could find no ties to extremist organizations and did not believe that the killer, who fatally shot himself in the head as police closed in, had any larger political objective.
But the attack did appear to have been meticulously planned. Authorities said they were investigating the possibility that the killer had lured his intended victims to a local McDonald’s by hacking into a Facebook account and offering free food. The McDonald’s was later a center of the carnage, with at least four people dying there.
The dead in Munich ranged in age from 14 to 45. Most were younger than 20, three were women, and three were Turkish nationals, according to Turkey’s foreign minister. Munich officials said all of the dead were local residents.
The rampage, which left 27 people injured, set off a panic in Munich, with 4,310 calls pouring in to the city’s emergency operations center in a matter of hours, matching the typical total for four days.
Neighbors interviewed by the German tabloid Bild, which ran the headline “Bloodbath in Munich” across its front page Saturday, described the suspected killer as “a quiet guy.” Maxvorstadt is a university district filled with museums close to Munich’s historic city center. During the shooting spree, the suspect was filmed shouting that he had grown up in an area for those receiving state-funded welfare benefits.
In a furious exchange with the man who was filming him as he paced the top floor of an empty parking deck, the killer also insisted “I am German!” after the man wielding his cellphone to record the video called him a derogatory term for a foreigner.
The news service DPA reported, citing a security source, that the killer had not been known to police but that he played violent video games and admired the 17-year-old who killed 15 people in a shooting spree at a school in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, in 2009. The news agency said the killer’s parents moved to Germany in the 1990s and that he had grown up in the country but had struggled in school.
Last month, German authorities did arrest three Syrians suspected of planning an Islamic State attack on the city of Düsseldorf. The men had entered Germany with a wave of migrants fleeing war and mayhem in the Middle East.
The alleged plot involved suicide bombers, firearms and explosives, German authorities said. The arrests potentially thwarted a deadly operation comparable to assaults on Brussels in March and Paris in November.