At 9:15 p.m., the Hamburg police received several calls from the Alsterdorf district: shots could be heard from a three-story office building where Jehovah’s Witnesses meet. A support unit for special operations happens to be nearby and can be at the scene in a few minutes, police spokesman Holger Vehren reports.

Officers enter the building and find several people with gunshot wounds. Then they hear a shot from upstairs. A lifeless man lies in a room. The police assume that he is the perpetrator. Even hours later, Vehren cannot say how many people he injured and killed.

“I heard shots several times around ten to nine o’clock. They sounded very metallic,” says resident Lara Bauch. “At first we thought that there was still work to be done on the construction site that late. It then turned out that that wasn’t the case.” The 23-year-old student lives with her boyfriend on a side street across the street and from her attic apartment has a direct view of the crime scene on the busy Deelböge street.

Friend is filming with his cell phone

“There were about four shot periods. In these periods, several shots were always fired, roughly 20 seconds to a minute apart,” reports Bauch. From her window she could see a person who ran frantically from the ground floor to the first floor. “The man was dressed in dark clothes and was moving quickly,” says Bauch. She couldn’t tell if he was masked.

Her friend filmed what happened on his cell phone. A police van can be seen parked in front of the building with lights flashing while cars are still driving by on the street. Heavily armed officers rush to the entrance and open the door. They storm up the stairs to the upper floor. In the middle room is probably the suspected shooter, as Vehren says. Police believe he killed himself. The officers did not fire a shot.

helicopter and ambulance

In the late evening, the area is cordoned off over a wide area. Helmeted and heavily armed police officers stand at the intersections. A warning beeps loudly over the cell phone. “Official danger announcement of the authority for internal affairs – police – Hamburg, Groß Borstel”, it says. “Avoid the danger area,” the recipients are asked. The crime scene is on the border to Groß Borstel. Residents should not go outside.

Several hours after the crime, a police helicopter rattles over the area. Vehren cautiously gives the all-clear. There is no evidence of a fugitive perpetrator, he says several times. However, it is possible that the helicopter crew will scan the area with a thermal imaging camera.

There are numerous police vehicles and ambulances in front of the building. The large-capacity ambulance of the fire brigade can also be seen. The injured have already been taken to hospitals, says Vehren. The investigators from the homicide squad and the public prosecutor’s office are initially unable to enter the building. First, a defuser from the State Criminal Police Office has to search the rooms for potentially dangerous objects, as the police spokesman explains.


The actual “crime scene work” can only begin after midnight. That means securing tracks. Apparently there are still several dead in the building. Officers shield the entrance with large sheets, apparently to shield the events from the views and cameras of media representatives across the street.

The unadorned building is located next to a painting company. There is a gas station on the other side behind the construction site with three large cranes. Modern three- to four-storey apartment buildings and well-maintained old buildings in clinker construction are only some distance away in the side street across the street.

The resident, Bauch, reports that, according to the notice, the Jehovah’s Witnesses always meet for a service on Thursdays around 7:00 p.m. The audience is quite mixed – families, older and younger people. The eyewitness cannot yet grasp the dramatic events. She saw the police carrying out injured hands and feet. “I still haven’t quite realized it. You don’t expect people to be shot on Thursday evening,” says the 23-year-old.