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18 Dead in Germany School Shooting Rampage

  Erfurt, Germany

   Friday - April 26, 2002

Let's Stop the violence! 

    See how KEYS can help!!


See Additional School Shootings in Germany

Identifying the Potentially Dangerous Student

Erfurt, Germany, April 26, 2002: An expelled student, dressed in all black, stalked through the hallways shooting teachers and at least 2 students before taking his own life.


  "School Shooting Map

"HILFE" the sign in a classroom window called for "HELP" (hilfe) as an expelled student stalked the hallways and shot teachers and students. "It was chilling. I saw this big placard with the word "Help" on it and people moving around behind it but I couldn't tell if they were children or attackers," a witness told German broadcaster RTL.

The scene is Gutenberg Gymnasium (High School), in the eastern city of Erfurt. It has a student population of about 750 ranging in age from 13 – 19. At the time of this writing, Police are still searching the school for a possible second gunman who may be holding hostages.

"I heard shooting and thought it was a joke," Melanie Steinbrueck, 13, told the Associated Press. "But then I saw a teacher dead in the hallway in front of Room 209 and a gunman in black carrying a weapon."

"I never thought anything like this could ever happen in a place like Erfurt," said Thomas Rethfeldt, 18, whose teacher was shot in the head as she opened the door at the start of the shooting.

"I thought this must be a bad film. I thought this kind of thing only happened in America."

The scale of the murder, rivaling some of the worst school killings ever, stunned Germans, who long felt they had some of the toughest gun-control laws in the world and were removed from the type of wanton violence that has haunted the United States.

Juliane Blank, 13, added: "The guy was dressed all in black -- gloves, cap, everything was black. He must have opened the door without being heard and forced his way into the classroom. We ran out into the hallways. We just wanted to get out."

"There was a teacher with us. Somebody was shot in the leg," another student said.

Police helicopters were flying above and ambulances circled the building. As groups of dazed and shocked students huddled in the street, hugging and crying, a police officer with a megaphone urged parents to register their children's names before leaving the scene.As groups of dazed and shocked students huddled in the street, hugging and crying, a police officer with a megaphone urged parents to register their children's names before leaving the scene.

Mafred Etzel, a Police spokesman, told a German television reporter that the gunman was believed to have locked himself in a room before shooting himself. He said 80 pupils were in the building still, though they had been moved to the first floor.

Reporter Ralf Goehring said there was "great confusion" outside the school with pupils wanting to help their friends. [See Crisis Response Training]

"Pupils are in shock," he added.

This shooting comes just two months after another German school experienced a similar shooting event by a distraught former student. In that shooting the school principal in Freising, Germany was killed.


The Day after Germany Morns the most horrifying School Shooting ever.  

How can we STOP the VIOLENCE?


A Student said, "I thought this must be a bad film. I thought this kind of thing only happened in America!"

In Germany a special church service was held Friday night hours after the shooting that day .  Flags were lowered to half-staff.

The shooting left two female pupils, 13 teachers, a school secretary and a police officer killed ( Fighting back tears, police chief Rainer Grube said: "It was the policeman's daughter's birthday today.") by a recently expelled student. Another six people were wounded, police said.  Police said they were checking reports he sent a fellow pupil a mobile phone message warning him not to come to school that day.

"We cannot find words for what we feel in Germany right now," President Johannes Rau said, according to The Associated Press. "Germany is in mourning in the face of these incomprehensible events."

The gunman, dressed all in black and armed with a handgun and a pump-action gun, searched corridors, rooms and toilets inside the school, seeking out adults and then gunning them down, police chief Manfred Grube told a news conference.

History teacher Rainer Heise said he and the gunman came across each other in a hallway, and Steinhaeuser suddenly took off the mask.  "I said: 'Pull the trigger. If you shoot me now, then look in my eyes'," Heise said on ZDF television. "So he looks at me, lowers the pistol and says: 'That's enough for today, Mr. Heise."'  Heise said he then pushed the gunman into a classroom, slammed the door and locked it, took the key and ran down to the principal's office.

Soon afterward, police commandos swarmed into the building, and Steinhaeuser fatally shot himself.

One witness said that there were scattered in hallways, classrooms and bathrooms. The dead police officer was shot earlier before the school was stormed.

The attack began at about 11 a.m. local time (0900 GMT) Friday.

Describing the scene at the Gutenberg Gymnasium School as a "picture of horror," Grube said the 19-year-old gunman fled German special forces as they stormed the building, and then shot himself in a classroom.

Police were fired upon when they first entered the school. They retreated and formed a blockade around it.

Police told found the gunman dead with 500 rounds of ammunition still available to him.

Friday's massacre was the worst school shooting since 16 children and a teacher died at Dunblane in Scotland six years ago.

What can be done?  Officials say School Personnel and Police can act before plans for violence escalate into action by being trained to know what to look for and how to check/assess for "advance warning" from students who might be planning attacks.

Additional Shootings in Germany

Germany, November 1999: A 15-year-old student in Meissen, eastern Germany, stabbed his teacher to death after taking bets from classmates he would dare commit the crime.

He was later jailed for seven years.

Germany, March 2000: A 16-year-old pupil at a private boarding school in the Bavarian town of Branneburg, shot a 57-year-old teacher, who later died from injuries.

The teenager - who also shot himself - was facing expulsion from school after failing a cannabis test.

Germany, February 2002: [click here to learn more] A former pupil killed his headmaster and set off pipe bombs in the technical school he had recently been expelled from in Freising near Munich.

The man also shot dead his boss and a foreman at the company he worked for before turning the gun on himself. Another teacher was shot in the face, but survived.

Once again we ask ourselves, "Have we done all that we can to insure the safety of our schools?" Keys To Safer is making a special offer to any school to review your crisis planning and provide a written critique of any shortcomings found. To take advantage of this offer, mail your school’s Crisis Plan and supporting documents to:

Keys To Safer
P.O. Box 296
Bryant, AR 72089-0296.

Visit the Keys website for valuable information and resource material on school violence prevention at

Programs to Combat Violence

Reported By:
Frank Green
Keys To Safer

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