BERLIN (REUTERS, AFP) – A 29-year-old man drove into a crowd of people in Berlin on Wednesday (June 8), killing a teacher and injuring 14 of her students, as his car twice veered onto a pavement in a popular shopping district, officials said.
“The latest evidence suggests this is a case of a mentally ill person running amok,” said Iris Spranger, Berlin’s interior affairs minister, of the crash near the war-ravaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a landmark in the German capital.
Police identified the driver as a German-Armenian man, whose vehicle eventually crashed into a shop window.
He was detained by bystanders and handed over to the authorities.
The fire service earlier said a dozen people were injured and six were in a life-threatening condition.
Police later said 14 students were among the injured.
The teacher was accompanying a class of 10th grade students from the small town of Bad Arolsen in the central German state of Hesse,
Hesse’s public broadcaster said. That would most likely make them 16- and 17-year-olds.
Officials denied a report by Germany’s Bild newspaper the driver had left a letter of confession in the car.
Instead, investigators had found posters about Turkey, which has troubled relations with Armenia.
The incident revived memories of 2016, when a man in the same area of Berlin hijacked a truck, killed the driver and drove into a crowded Christmas market and killed 11 more people.
Bild newspaper released a picture of the driver being detained, wearing a yellow pullover, jogging trousers and red trainers.
More than 100 emergency workers swarmed the scene after the incident.
The small silver Renault car was lodged inside a shop after smashing through a plate glass display, Reuters images showed.
Blankets covered what appeared to be a body in a cordoned-off area guarded by police. Rescue workers moved apparently conscious people on stretchers towards an ambulance, including one woman sitting up and another who covered her face with her hand.
“I heard the bang and the crash when we were in a store, and then we came out and we just saw the carnage,” John Barrowman, an actor, said in a video posted on his Twitter account.
The site, on a shopping street near a McDonald’s restaurant, was cordoned off. Bystanders looked up at a helicopter circling above.
The nearby Europa Centre complex was later evacuated in case the crashed car contained explosives, police said.
“The federal government has of course learned of this terrible incident in Berlin today and is very concerned and distressed about it,” a government spokesmann said.
“Our thoughts, our sympathy are with the injured and their relatives.”
The incident took place near the scene of the attack on Dec 19, 2016, when Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with Islamist links, ploughed a truck into a crowded western Berlin Christmas market, killing 11 more people and injuring dozens of others.
Amri then fled to Italy, where Italian police shot him dead.
In December 2020, a German man ploughed his car through a pedestrian shopping street in the south-western city of Trier, killing four adults and a baby.
Earlier the same year, a German man rammed his car through a carnival procession in the central town of Volkmarsen, injuring dozens of bystanders, including children. He was sentenced to life in jail last year.
In January 2019, another German national injured eight people when he drove into crowds on New Year’s Eve in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. He was later taken into psychiatric care.
In April 2018, a German man crashed his van into people seated outside a restaurant in the city of Muenster, killing five before shooting himself dead. Investigators later said he had mental health problems.
During the football World Cup in Germany in 2006, a German man rammed his car into crowds gathered to watch a match at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, injuring some 20 people. The driver was later committed to a psychiatric hospital.