MUNICH — German police said Sunday the teenage gunman who went on a rampage at a shopping center Friday, leaving nine people dead, had no ties to the Islamic State or other extremist groups, but he had been planning his attack for a year and may have been inspired by a similar assault by another German youth in 2009.
At a news conference, German authorities said evidence continued to support their theory that the gunman was “obsessed” with mass killings and may have been a depressed loner who was bullied in school.
In the southwestern city of Reutlingen on Sunday, a man with a machete killed a woman and injured two others, the Associated Press reported, citing German media reports. He was then arrested by police.
Robert Heimberger, head of the Bavarian criminal police, said the gunman in the Munich attack had last year visited the German town of Winnenden, the scene of a similar shooting rampage seven years ago by a 17-year-old that left 15 students and teachers dead at his former school.
The Munich shooter took photographs at the site, authorities said.
German police also said Sunday it was likely the pistol used in the Munich attack was purchased via the “darknet,” a corner of the Internet where users employ encryption and special software to trade restricted items, pornography, ideas, files and whistle-blowing alerts to circumvent government snooping.
The southern German city’s police chief said investigators searching the assailant’s family apartment found a trove of electronic data and written materials suggesting that he was fascinated by shooting rampages before he went on one of his own Friday afternoon. The items recovered included a book, translated into German, by a U.S. academic on school shootings titled “Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters.”
“He was very intensely interested in the subject,” said the Munich police chief, Hubertus Andrae, who described the mass shooting as a “classic act by a deranged person.”
Authorities did not release the name of the assailant, but German media reported that his name was David Ali Sonboly, the 18-year-old son of a limousine driver and a department store clerk who was born and raised in Munich. The parents migrated to Germany from Iran.
The German Iranian teen may have been the target of intense bullying by peers, police said. In a video taken during the rampage, Sonboly complains of being bullied.
Instead of being inspired by Islamic State terrorism, police investigators said, Sonboly may have been influenced in some way by the Norwegian mass murderer and domestic terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.
Munich authorities said there was “an obvious link” between the Munich shooter and the massacre carried out by Breivik on July 22, 2011.
Friday’s shooting in Munich – the third mass attack in Europe since the Bastille Day truck carnage in Nice, France, this month- took place on the fifth anniversary of Breivik’s attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utoya. Breivik killed 77 people, first by exploding a bomb in a van and then by stalking his victims with a gun at a summer camp. At the time, Breivik released a statement calling for the deportation of Muslims, whom he decried as enemies alongside “cultural Marxists.”
The news service DPA reported, citing a German security official, that the killer had not been known to police but that he admired the teenager who killed 15 people in Winnenden in 2009.
A security officer close to the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is active, said the shooter “behaved like he was in a video game.”
The official called the assailant “cold and methodical.” It appeared that he targeted “foreign-looking people” and that he aimed at their heads, he said. In one case, the shooter may have returned to one wounded victim and shot him again, according to video examined by police.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday described Sonboly’s attack as “a night of horror.”
“We’re grieving with a heavy heart for those who will never return to their families,” she said in a brief statement from Berlin after a meeting of her security cabinet. “We’re suffering with them.”
In front of the shuttered Olympia shopping mall, where the rampage took place, mourners left flowers and lit candles under rainy skies. Church bells tolled throughout the day, and flags flew at half-staff.
Stefan Dessner, a retiree, placed a bouquet on the sidewalk. “This was a terrible day,” he said, wondering whether the world was “going crazy.” He mentioned the youth of the victims. Most of the nine killed were younger than 18, including three 14-year-olds. And most of the children had been born to parents with migrant backgrounds.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière cautioned that the killer’s motives were still being investigated but asserted that there were no links to international terrorist groups.
Maizière said that the killer had been “bullied by peers” and that violent video games had probably helped inspire the attack.
Of the victims, Maizière said the young age of many of them “will break your heart.”
“How is it possible for society to prevent these attacks?” he asked, without providing an answer.
Officials said they have found no suicide note or other statement of intent. Sonboly did not have a criminal record but “may have had a mental disorder,” according to Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, Munich’s prosecutor.
Maizière said the use of David as a first name could suggest that the killer had converted to Christianity from Islam. But his parents said he was not a practicing member of any religion, German media reported.
Whatever the killer’s motives, he acted alone, Munich’s police chief said. “We are talking about a perpetrator without any political background,” the Munich prosecutor added.
The rampage, however, appears to have been meticulously planned. Authorities said they were investigating the possibility that the killer had lured his intended victims to a local McDonald’s by hacking into a Facebook account and offering free food.
The restaurant was the scene of the first moments of the killing, with at least four people dying there, after Sonboly emerged from the restroom dressed in black, wearing a red backpack and firing a semiautomatic handgun.
He then crossed the street and entered a mall, continuing to shoot as panic spread. In addition to the dead, 27 people were injured, some seriously.
Amateur video filmed during the rampage shows the shooter’s exchange with a rooftop heckler who swears at him and calls him a foreigner. The assailant shouted back, “I am German!” He also said, “Because of you, I was bullied for seven years.”
The killer was armed with a Glock semiautomatic pistol that had its serial number scratched out, suggesting that it had been obtained illegally. He had about 300 rounds of ammunition and still had multiple cartridges in a bag when he shot himself in the head, ending the slaughter hours after it began.
Merkel acknowledged that the frequency of the recent attacks has been unnerving. But she expressed confidence in German security services and assured the nation that investigators were doing all they could to get to the bottom of both Friday night’s rampage and an ax attack on a train earlier in the week.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · William Booth