Forensic information released by German police point to Polish truck driver Lukasz Urban as the hero of the Berlin Christmas market massacre, a man who died fighting and may have saved countless lives.
Urban was the rightful driver of the truck hijacked for the massacre. According to the UK Daily Mail, he was on his way back to his wife Zuzanna and their 17-year-old son in the Polish border town of Roznowo, and hoped to be home by Thursday to prepare for Christmas.
The owner of the trucking firm for which he worked, Ariel Zurawski, who is also Urban’s cousin, said the driver was last heard from after parking at a depot in Friedrich-Krause-Ufer for a meal. The last known photograph of him was taken about 2:00 p.m. at a kebab shop.
Urban was in the process of delivering steel to a branch of the Thyssenkrupp Company in Berlin, according to the Associated Press. He was running a day ahead of schedule, so the company turned him away on Monday and told him to return on Tuesday to unload his cargo.
“When I spoke to him he was saying it was a strange area of Berlin because it was full of Muslims. The only Germans he came into contact with were those at the depot,” said Zurawski, who suggested these comments were meant humorously.
Tragically, the Associated Press reported that Urban tried to call his wife around 3:00 p.m., but she was busy. No one answered the phone when she tried to call him back an hour later.
The company has said GPS data from the truck shows it moving erratically after the presumed hijacking. “The car was started up, turned off, driven forward, then backward. As if somebody inside was learning how to drive,” said Zurawski. The vehicle then stopped for the better part of four hours, before coming back to life at 7:40 PM and heading for the Christmas market.
“There appears to be evidence that, despite being stabbed, Mr. Urban wrestled his hijacker for the steering wheel,” the BBC reports. “The post-mortem examination suggests that Mr. Urban survived up until the attack and was shot dead when the truck came to a halt. No gun has been recovered.”
Zurawksi said Urban’s wife was too distraught to identify his body, so another family member handled that grim duty.
Zurawski also said:
Police in Gryfinie showed me the terrible photo of Lukasz. His face was all bruised and had been cut with a knife. You could tell he put up a fight. But I do not believe that one man could have killed my cousin. He was a powerful six-foot-two and weighed 130kg. It had to do [sic] a group of people.
He added more terrible details in his comments to the Daily Mail: Urban’s brother Konrad committed suicide three years ago, and his father is now being treated for shock in the hospital.
The UK Standard quoted German media reports that investigators believe, based on his wounds, that Urban was “alive and fighting as the truck headed for its human targets.” His autopsy states he was fatally shot during the final moments of the Christmas market attack.
Urban’s manager at the trucking company, Lukasz Wasik, told Polish media he believes Urban “would not give up the vehicle and would defend it to the end if attacked.”
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo called Urban “the first victim of this heinous act of violence.” If he was alive and fighting with his jihadi murderer to the very end, perhaps preventing the killer from targeting his victims more accurately, he is also the hero of that awful day.
Brookings Institution security policy analyst Constanze Stelzenmuller, who established the petition, said:
I’ve never written a petition before and never thought I would. But this man is a hero. And I’ve seen social media put to use all through the year for the nastiest and most depressing purposes. It’s time to use it for good, and perhaps to help Urban’s widow and son, who have to spend Christmas without him.
The Guardian also quotes Urban’s cousin Ariel Zurawski saying he has been “contacted by a huge number of people inquiring how they could support Urban’s family financially.” A GoFundMe page for the family collected almost 113,000 pounds in donations by Friday morning.
“We are grateful for every good word, every deed and every bit of help. It is incredible how much strength there is in people,” Zurawski said.