In Berlin on Wednesday morning, not far from Breitscheidplatz, a 29-year-old drove his car into a group of people and then into the window of a perfumery. A woman died and numerous people were injured. The exact background is still unclear, security circles are currently assuming a rampage. There is therefore no suspicion of terrorism.
According to a fire department spokesman at noon, five people are in mortal danger and three others were seriously injured. There is also an unknown number of minor injuries. The driver is said to be among the injured.
According to Tagesspiegel information, students in a school class from Hesse are also among the injured. The dead woman is therefore her 51-year-old teacher. Another teacher is said to have been seriously injured.
According to a police spokesman, the driver drove at 10:30 a.m. at Rankestrasse, where Kurfürstendamm merges into Tauentzienstrasse, into a group of people on the sidewalk, then back onto the road on Tauentzienstrasse and then again at Marburger Strasse onto the pavement and into a shop window, where he finally came to a halt.
Pictures from the scene of the accident show the Renault Clio in the destroyed window of a Douglas branch opposite the Europa Center. In the afternoon, the large shopping center on Breitscheidplatz was partially cleared. This is purely a precautionary measure in case there is anything dangerous in the car, the police said – the car will now be examined more closely.
Tagesspiegel reporter Julius Geiler described the first impressions of the scene in this video at noon.
According to the police, the driver was arrested. He will be questioned and it will be checked whether it is a deliberate act or a traffic accident or whether a medical emergency is also possible. At first he was held by passers-by. According to police information, he is 29 years old, German-Armenian and lives in Berlin. The man appeared confused when he was arrested. Handcuffed and held down by a police officer, he repeatedly said to passers-by: “Please help, please help”.
The man is said to be Gor H., he lives with his older sister in Charlottenburg. According to dpa information, he was also driving his sister’s car. Because the driver had no papers with him, he was identified by the federal police at the zoo. The federal police have so-called Fast-ID devices with which fingerprints are recorded electronically and compared with a nationwide data system.
Eyewitnesses reported that they had the impression that the driver had deliberately driven into the groups of people. Earlier information, according to which he should be 60 years old, was not confirmed and turned out to be a transmission error.
Security circles currently assume that it was a rampage. So far there has been no suspicion of terrorism. A police spokeswoman did not confirm this. At the same time, she denied a “Bild” report, according to which a letter of confession was found in the car. This is not the case. She declined to comment on the driver’s motive. According to several sources, the driver is said to be known to the police and has been accused of theft.
Fire brigade and police are on site with a large contingent, the police moved in with 130 forces. A rescue helicopter landed on the median of Tauentzienstraße. Heavily armed police officers were standing on nearby Breitscheidplatz. The emergency psychosocial care of the fire brigade looked after numerous victims in the Memorial Church, including those with minor injuries. Police chief Barbara Slowik got an idea of the situation around noon.
The police called on witnesses to submit information and media files about the events in order to support the investigation. They can be sent to the information portal of the Berlin police using this link.
British-American actor John Barrowman witnessed what happened. He was in a shop at the time of the incident. “It’s really pretty bad,” he said in a video he shared on Twitter this morning. A body is lying on the street, many people are injured and are limping.
According to Barrowman, the car came from the west over Kurfürstendamm and entered the sidewalk at the Memorial Church, back onto the street where it struck a pedestrian, and then back onto the sidewalk at the junction with Tauentzienstrasse. There he drove into passers-by, past a café and crashed into the Douglas branch.
An employee of the McDonald’s branch at Breitscheidplatz reported that the car was traveling at high speed and that he could not see it slowing down.
The federal government expressed its sympathy after the deadly incident on Wednesday. The government was “very affected and shaken,” said deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann. Thoughts and sympathy are with the injured and their families.
A spokesman for Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) also expressed sympathy for those affected. “Above all, we hope that the seriously injured and injured will recover,” he said. Investigations and clarification were under high pressure, but it was too early to talk about the background.
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) was “deeply affected by this terrible event”. She thanked the emergency services for their work on site and expressed her condolences to the victims and their families. Giffey avoided any statement about the background of the incident and explained: “It’s about clarifying what happened and what happened.”
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Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) said on Twitter on Wednesday: “I am shocked by the incident in Charlottenburg. I am in the situation center and keep myself informed. My thoughts and my deepest sympathy are with all those affected.”
The district mayor of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Kirsten Bauch (Greens), expressed her condolences to the relatives of the fatality and wished the injured a speedy recovery. “We have to do everything we can to prevent such serious accidents in the future,” said Bauch, although it is still unclear how this happened.
“We are shocked by the horrific incident on Tauentzien and our thoughts are with the dead, the injured and their relatives,” said the Berlin state chairman of the police union (GdP), Stephan Weh. “It is important that the police and fire brigade do their job on site and learn from past mistakes.” They would also deal with such operations professionally, but they are also people “on whom the horrific pictures also leave their mark”. Therefore, there must also be a comprehensive follow-up for the emergency services.
In Berlin there have been several cases in recent years in which people have been seriously injured or killed by drivers – whether through terror or accidents. In December 2016, the Islamist assassin Anis Amri drove a truck into a Christmas market at the Memorial Church on Breitscheidplatz. At that time, twelve people died and more than 70 were injured. The Tunisian was shot dead by the police a few days later while fleeing Italy.
In September 2019, an SUV driver left the road on Invalidenstraße Mitte. The vehicle overturned, killing a three-year-old boy and his grandmother and two men on the sidewalk. In February 2022, the German driver was sentenced to a suspended sentence of two years. Despite suffering from epilepsy and undergoing brain surgery, he had been driving a month before the accident.