German police puzzled by masked movie theater attacker’s motives

VIERNHEIM, Germany, June 23 (UPI) — German authorities are trying to figure out why a masked man staged an attack on a movie theater Thursday, which led to his being shot dead by police.

The man entered the theater in the small western Germany town of Viernheim carrying what appeared to be a firearm.

German Interior Minister Peter Beuth said police shot the man at the Kinopolis movie theater because authorities believed he was holding hostages.

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By late Thursday, though, investigators weren’t certain whether the suspect’s gun was real.

“The police had an emergency call at 2:45 p.m. The caller said there was a masked man … armed with a long gun. It is unclear whether it was a real gun,” Beuth said. “The caller heard four shots and said that the masked man appeared a little mentally unstable. Police special forces were called.”

The Ministry of Interior confirmed the gunman had been killed, the Hessischer Rundfunk public broadcaster reported. The suspect was killed by police gunfire, officials said.

German news media initially reported that as many as 25 people were hurt in the incident, but police later stated no one was injured. Viernheim is located about 45 miles south of Frankfurt.

Authorities are trying to determine what type of weapon the gunman may have carried. An initial investigation by police determined the gunman likely has no background connected to terrorism.

Mass shootings are rare in Germany. In 2002, a gunman killed 16 when he opened fire at a high school in Erfurt. In 2009, a gunman killed 15 people in a shooting spree that began and a school and moved to two small towns near Stuttgart.

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