Tuesday 3/2/21
14 PEOPLE INJURED

Five dead after driver runs down pedestrians in Germany

The dead include a nine-week-old baby.

The driver had intentionally targeted pedestrians, driving in "zigzag lines" to do the most damage.

01 December 2020, Rhineland-Palatinate, Trier: Policemen operate at the scene where two people have died after a car hit several people in a pedestrianized area. The driver has been detained and the car was seized. Photo: Harald Tittel/dpa
Policemen operate at the scene where 5 people died after a car hit several people in a pedestrianized area. Photo: Harald Tittel/dpa.

Five people were killed after a driver in a sport utility vehicle struck several pedestrians in the German city of Trier, police said on Tuesday, in an incident that currently appears to not have a political motive.

However, the police interrogation of the chief suspect is ongoing, authorities say, with no idea as to what motivated a driver to seemingly randomly target people in the city centre.

The dead include a nine-week-old baby. The 45-year-old father of the baby girl was also among those killed.

The baby's mother and an 18-month-old son from the same family are currently in hospital.

A 73-year-old woman as well as a woman and a man from Trier were also killed in the incident. Police shared that the fifth victim, a 52-year-old woman, died later on Tuesday.

Fourteen people were also injured, some of them seriously, according to police.

The state interior minister, Roger Lewentz, said that he believed the driver had intentionally targeted pedestrians, driving in "zigzag lines" to do the most damage.

The driver has been detained and a vehicle seized, police in the south-western city said. The entire incident lasted four minutes and played out on multiple streets in a pedestrianized area of the downtown.

Investigators say the suspect was sitting alone in the vehicle during the incident and was not previously known to police.

The suspect is a 51-year-old German man and a local resident, according to a police tweet.

Mentally ill

According to initial findings by the public prosecutor's office, there are indications the man may have a mental illness. Therefore, judicial authorities still have to decide whether to request remand in custody or to place him in a closed psychiatric institution.

He apparently drove into people at random in a pedestrianized area near the Porta Nigra, the city's landmark Roman city gate.

Public prosecutors Peter Fritzen said that the man was drunk at the time of the crime and had resisted arrest. Police said the man had been living out of his vehicle during the past few days.

Witnesses at the scene said that people had been hurled into the air by the SUV.

The incident sparked a major response by emergency services. Large parts of central Trier were blocked off. However, police later said that there was no longer any threat to the public.

Thoughts with the victims

"What happened in Trier is shocking," Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson, wrote on Twitter.

"Thoughts are with the families of the dead, with the numerous injured people and with all of those who were deployed in this moment to care for those affected," he added.

More than 100 people gathered at the Trier Cathedral to pray for the victims and their families. "A terrible day for Trier is coming to an end," said Bishop Stephan Ackermann at the late Tuesday service.

Head of the German Bishops' Conference Georg Baetzing expressed his "deep shock" over the incident.

"In this hour of speechlessness and mourning, I am united with the victims, the dead, the injured and the relatives," he said.

As a former Trier resident, the head of the country's top Catholic body was left with anger, horror and deep sadness, he said.

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