Police look for motive in German school killings (Lead)

March 12th, 2009 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Winnenden (Germany), March 12 (DPA) Investigators Thursday were trying to determine what prompted a German teenager to go on a shooting rampage at his former school, triggering a bloodbath that left 16 dead.
Police confirmed the 17-year-old suspect, identified as Tim Kretschmer, had spent months playing violent computer games and engaging in target practice with air pistols and compressed air guns.

“We have looked into the background of the offender and have found clues that could indicate a motive,” police director Ralf Michelfelder said after an examination of the boy’s computer.

Kretschmer strolled into his former school in the small town of Winnenden Wednesday morning and shot dead nine students and three teachers. He then fled, killing three other people before apparently killing himself 40 km away during a gunfight with the police.

Police said the gun used in the slaying was apparently stolen from the bedroom of the shooter’s father, a member of a local marksmen’s club. The father owned more than a dozen weapons, all but one locked in a safe.

“It appeared the father was careless in the handling of this one weapon,” Michelfelder said, indicating he would face charges for violating Germany’s gun control laws.

The Albertville secondary school, where the attack took place, remained closed as psychologists provided counselling to traumatised students and teachers as well as the families of the victims.

Teachers in other schools in the area were asked to discuss the tragedy with their students in an attempt to allay fears that such a thing could happen to them.

Nine people who were injured in the shooting - five students, two teachers and two policemen - spent the night in the hospital, but their condition was not life-threatening. Three were discharged Thursday morning.

A sea of candles and flowers decorated the Catholic Church of St. Karl Borromaeus in Winnenden where hundreds of people attended a memorial service Wednesday evening.

Friends of the victims also placed toys in front of the altar. Many in the congregation were so overcome with emotion that they had to be escorted from the building by paramedics.

The shooting was Germany’s second worst school bloodbath since April 2002, when a 19-year-old high school student went on a rampage in Erfurt, killing 12 teachers, two students, a school secretary and a policeman before killing himself.

It also renewed the debate on whether Germany should tighten restrictions on the possession of weapons and install metal detectors at schools.

Conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) politician Wolfgang Bosbach said he did not see any reason for more restrictive gun control measures.

“We tightened gun controls after Erfurt and our law on the issue is pretty strict in comparison to those in force in other countries,” he said.

The German Teachers Union called for more teaching personnel schooled into psychology to help with conflict de-escalation among students.

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