A man zigzagged an SUV at high speed through a pedestrian zone in the southwestern German city of Trier on Tuesday, killing five people, including a nine-month-old child, and seriously injuring more than a dozen others, officials said.
The driver, identified as a 51-year-old German man born in Trier, was arrested at the scene and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police said.
The suspect, whose name was not released in line with German privacy laws, had no fixed address and had been recently living in the Land Rover that was used in the attack and had been loaned to him by a friend, said prosecutor Peter Fritzen.
The man was being interrogated by police and was to undergo a psychiatric examination, said Fritzen, who was heading the investigation. He said that a doctor had recently reached the preliminary conclusion the man could be suffering from mental illness.
“We have no indication that there was any kind of a terrorist, political or religious motive that could have played a role,” Fritzen told reporters.
The suspect had also consumed a “not insignificant” quantity of alcohol before the incident and was well above the legal limit, he said.
Some victims in life-threatening condition
Mayor Wolfram Leibe, who was brought to tears during the day talking about the horrific scene, said it was difficult to come to grips with what had happened.
“I can’t understand how someone gets the idea to drive through the city centre with an SUV to kill people,” he said. “Kill people — a baby, nine months old, to a woman 72 years old; what did these people do? They just wanted to go to the city, shop, and now they are dead.”
Four people were still in life-threatening condition in the hospital and five others suffered serious injuries, while another six had less serious injuries, state Interior Minister Roger Lewentz said. Police later said one of the injured succumbed, but provided no further details.
The others killed were identified as a 25-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man from Trier; the baby’s mother was among those hospitalized. Police said the oldest victim was 73.
“This incident has shaken all of Germany,” Lewentz said.
The attack was reported to police shortly before 2 p.m.
Lewentz commended security forces on their reaction, saying that they had located the car, which had stopped at the side of the street, and taken the suspect into custody within four minutes of receiving the first call.
The driver, who was alone in the car, resisted arrest but was overpowered by police, authorities said.
Politicians express shock, condolences
In a video posted by a local media outlet purportedly showing the arrest, police could be seen pinning a man down on the sidewalk next to a car with Trier licence plates.
The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified and it was taken down shortly after police tweeted a request for people to not share photos and videos of the scene.
Footage from the scene showed people outside a shop apparently helping someone on the ground among scattered debris.
Rhineland-Palatinate state governor Malu Dreyer, who comes from Trier, condemned what had happened as a “brutal act.”
“It was a really, really terrible day for my hometown,” Dreyer told reporters after visiting the scene.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, tweeted that the incident was “shocking.”
“Our thoughts are with the relatives of those killed and with the numerous injured, and with everyone currently on duty caring for them,” he said.
Trier is about 200 kilometres west of Frankfurt, near the border with Luxembourg.
The city of about 110,000 people is known for its Roman gate, the Porta Nigra, which is near the scene of the incident, and as the birthplace of Karl Marx.