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The Latest: Memorial in Muenster honors victims of van crash

The Latest: Memorial in Muenster honors victims of van crash
The Associated Press

MUENSTER, Germany (AP) — The Latest on the van crash in the German city of Muenster (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

Muenster’s Roman Catholic bishop is urging mourners to try to understand — with the help of God — the horrible van crash that killed two people and injured 20 others.

Bishop Felix Genn was preaching Sunday night at the city’s famous Paulus Cathedral at a hastily announced memorial put together by Catholics and Lutherans — the two main denominations in Germany.

The cathedral’s 700 seats were packed by those mourning the victims who died Saturday when a 48-year-old local man who drove his van into a crowd outside a pub and then shot himself to death. Rescue personnel, emergency doctors and firefighters were among those at the service.

Authorities say they don’t know the motive behind the suspect’s crash but assume he acted alone. They said he had expressed suicidal plans and had frequent run-ins with the law.

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6:45 p.m.

Authorities say a 48-year-old German man who crashed a van into a crowd in Muenster had stored several gas bottles and canisters with gasoline and bio-ethanol at his home.

Muenster prosecutors and police said in a joint statement Sunday it was too early to say why the man had stored the chemicals at his Muenster home. Two people were killed and 20 others injured, some severely, in the crash Saturday, and the driver shot himself to death in the van shortly afterward.

Police said they’d found illegal firecrackers and a “no longer usable AK-47 machine gun” at his home and firecrackers, a fake pistol and the gun he used to kill himself with inside his van.

Muenster Police President Hajo Kuhlisch says “we are now focusing our investigations on getting a comprehensive picture of the perpetrator’s behavior in the weeks (before the crash) to find out his motivation for this horrible act.”

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6:10 p.m.

Authorities say a 48-year-old German man who crashed a van into a crowd in Muenster before shooting himself to death had expressed suicidal plans by email to a neighbor late last month.

Muenster prosecutors and police said in a joint statement Sunday that police were told about the email and went to the man’s Muenster home but he was not there.

They then told local authorities at the man’s other homes in Dresden and Pirna in eastern Germany about the note, but the man could not be found there either.

The statement said while the perpetrator of Saturday’s deadly crash expressed suicidal plans he didn’t mention any intention to harm other people. Two people were killed and 20 injured — six of them severely — in the van crash.

The statement also said the man, who was not identified, was in touch with the Muenster health offices. It didn’t say why.

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1:30 p.m.

Authorities say a 48-year-old German man who killed two people and injured 20 others in a van crash before shooting himself to death in Muenster was well known to police.

Prosecutor Elke Adomeit told reporters Sunday there had been three previous court procedures in the western city of Muenster and one in nearby Arnsberg in 2015 and 2016 involving the van driver.

Adomeit said the perpetrator, whose name was not released, had run-ins with the law regarding threats, property damage, fraud and a hit-and-run, but that all charges were dismissed.

Adomeit also said authorities “have no indications that there is a political background” to Saturday’s deadly crash outside the Kiepenkerl bar in the city’s old town.

Muenster police president Hajo Kuhlisch said the man had four apartments and several cars, all of which were searched by police.

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1:10 p.m.

German authorities say some of the 20 people injured when a van crashed into people outside of a pub in Muenster are still in a life-threatening condition.

Authorities have not identified the injured in the crash Saturday in the western German city but a German security official says people from The Netherlands are among them.

Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where Muenster is located, visited the crash scene on Sunday. He says, “this was a horrible and sad day for the people of Muenster, all of Germany … and also the people of The Netherlands, who were sitting here and became victims.”

Laschet didn’t give any further details on how many Dutch were injured when a 48-year-old German crashed his van into a crowd in the city’s downtown area. Two people were killed in the crash and the van driver took his own life.

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11:35 a.m.

The German news agency dpa is quoting police as saying that that the driver who crashed his van into a crowd in the western German city of Muenster had no accomplices.

The 48-year-old German man killed two people and injured 20 others Saturday before shooting himself to death in the van.

Witnesses of Saturday’s crash had initially said they’d seen two other perpetrators flee the van after it crashed into a crowd outside the city’s traditional Kiepenkerl pub in the city’s medieval old town.

The driver of the van was not identified by name. Authorities are still clueless about his motives and said they’re investigating in all possible directions.

Local media have described the 48-year-old as a psychologically instable man.

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11 p.m.

German prosecutors said Sunday they still have no indication why a 48-year-old German man drove a van into a crowd of people in the western German city of Muenster, killing two and injuring 20 before shooting himself to death inside the van.

“As of now, we don’t have any leads regarding a possible background for the deed,” prosecutor Martin Botzenhardt wrote in a joint statement with police. “The investigations are being led under high pressure in all possible directions.”

Authorities have identified the two fatalities of Saturday’s crash as a 51-year-old woman from Lueneburg County and a 65-year-old man from Broken County. Their names weren’t given as is customary in Germany.

Local media have identified the perpetrator as an industrial designer living in Muenster who had been suffering from psychological problems, but police wouldn’t confirm those details.

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9 a.m.

Inside the van in Muenster, police found illegal firecrackers which were disguised as a fake bomb, a fake pistol and the gun that the perpetrator used to kill himself.

Inside the man’s apartment, which was nearby the crash scene and raided late Saturday, police found more firecrackers and a “no longer usable AK-47 machine gun.”

Police said some of the 20 injured persons were still in life-threatening condition, but did not release further details on their identities.

The local daily Muenstersche Zeitung reported that the perpetrator had vaguely announced his suicide plans a week ago in an email to friends and that he was known to the authorities for previous violence and drug violations, but police wouldn’t confirm any of those details.

The 48-year-old had driven his van into a crowd Saturday afternoon in the historical city center of Muenster. The city was buzzing on one of the first warm spring days of the year and people were sitting outside the Kiepenkerl when he drove into the bar’s tables with such a vengeance that the vehicle only came to a stop when it hit the wall of the pub. Police quickly evacuated the area and ambulances, firefighters and helicopters rushed to the scene to aid those who were injured.

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Grieshaber reported from Berlin.

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