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 assume a rampage. In the evening, the Senate Interior Administration announced on Twitter that the driver was probably mentally impaired. “According to the latest information, today’s events on Tauentzienstrasse represent an amoktat by a mentally handicapped person,” Spranger is quoted as saying.
Berlin’s chief of police, Barbara Slowik, had previously told RBB that investigations were being carried out in all directions. Mental impairments of the driver cannot be ruled out, but neither can all other backgrounds. The police are currently “not ruling out anything”.
In the evening, the police searched the driver’s apartment in Charlottenburg with the help of a special task force. Due to the unclear background, this is the normal procedure, a police spokeswoman told the Tagesspiegel. The spokeswoman could not say whether the emergency services found anything in the apartment.
According to the fire department, six 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.
The victim is a 51-year-old teacher from Hesse. She was visiting Berlin with a tenth grader from a secondary school from Bad Arolsen in northern Hesse. Another teacher was seriously injured, as were 14 students, some critically.
The driver drove around 10.30 a.m. on Kurfürstendamm opposite the Memorial Church onto the sidewalk and there into the group of people. From the junction with Rankestraße, he continued his journey on the road, where Kurfürstendamm turns into Tauentzienstraße. About 100 meters further on, he turned right again onto the sidewalk, crossed Marburger Strasse and drove into the shop window, where he finally came to a stop.
Tagesspiegel reporter Julius Geiler described the first impressions of the scene in this video at noon.
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 police first announced that the large shopping center on Breitscheidplatz had been partially cleared, then made it clear that it had only been “committed”.
The restricted area around the vehicle was expanded, and the subway was temporarily interrupted in order to examine the car more closely. This is purely a precautionary measure in case there is anything dangerous in the car, police said. But neither incendiary nor explosive devices were found. The vehicle was taken away around 8 p.m. The further investigations are now being carried out by a soko named “Douglas”.
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.
He is slightly stocky, bald and wearing a blue tracksuit, the yellow polo shirt stretches over his stomach. When arrested, the man appeared confused. With handcuffs on, held down by a police officer, he keeps saying to passers-by: “Please help, please help.”
The man is said to be Gor H., who committed the crime in his sister’s car; both are registered in Charlottenburg, but do not live together. 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 group 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.
Witnesses claim to have seen anti-Turkish posters in the vehicle. Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) confirmed in the afternoon that posters with statements “about Turkey” had been discovered. She initially gave no further details. “There is no real letter of confession,” emphasized Spranger when she visited the scene.
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.
The Hessian state government was deeply dismayed. “This shocking news from Berlin leaves me stunned and deeply affected. My thoughts are with the victims, who were full of joy on a class trip in the capital,” said Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU). Emergency care teams were sent to Bad Arolsen to help relatives, classmates and teachers.
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.”
Interior Senator Spranger said on Twitter: “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.