The man is a 51-year-old German, according to the police, who at this stage exclude the hypothesis of a political, terrorist or religious motive.
The person in charge of the drama, a native of the region, suffered from a psychiatric disorder which may have played a role in his act, prosecutor Peter Fritzen told a press conference in the early evening.
The vehicle, a fast-moving SUV, “hit and crushed random passers-by,” said local police official Franz-Dieter Ankner.
“The news from Trier makes me very sad. My condolences go to the relatives of the victims, who were torn from life so suddenly and so violently, ”Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted, according to a tweet posted by a spokesperson.
Four people were killed and fifteen injured in this town in Rhineland-Palatinate, not far from the border with Luxembourg.
Among those victims was a 9-month-old baby, police said. “People were torn from life in a second, killed by this act of madness, including a small child, a baby”, told the press very moved the leader of the regional state where the facts took place, Malu Dreyer.
– Howling sirens –
A 25-year-old woman in her seventies and a 45-year-old man also died, police said.
Fifteen people were injured, some of them “seriously”, said the mayor of the city, Wolfram Leibe, referring to a “crazy driver”. Several children were among the injured, according to local media reports not confirmed by the authorities. The vehicle was seized by investigators.
The police and the municipality of Trier have asked to send them the photos or videos of the scene rather than posting them on social networks.
“It’s a horror scene,” lamented a police spokesperson. In addition to the injured, including the baby’s mother, “many traumatized people need care,” he said.
A short video of the pedestrian zone showed debris on the roadway as well as bodies lying down.
A video posted on social networks shows an SUV vehicle, with the hood down, immobilized by police vehicles all blaring sirens. A man is handcuffed on his stomach on the sidewalk by several police officers. He was questioned by investigators at the end of the afternoon.
The prosecution plans to place him in a psychiatric center, said prosecutor Peter Fritzen.
Other videos show the scene of desolation after the passage of the vehicle, in a pedestrian area where a large Christmas tree has been erected.
Stalls have been overturned. Rescuers perform cardiac massage on a victim. The body of another victim is covered with a blanket.
The car traveled between 600 meters and a kilometer at a brisk pace in this pedestrian area, hitting everything in its path.
– Tense context –
Several car-ramming attacks have been carried out in Germany in recent years by madmen suffering from psychological disorders.
The most serious was perpetrated in April 2018 in Münster. A man had darkened with a camper van on a group of people gathered in front of a restaurant, killing five of them, before committing suicide by gunshot.
The facts also occur in a tense context in the country following various Islamist attacks, the last with a knife in early October which left one dead and one seriously injured in Dresden, in the former GDR.
In December 2016, a ram truck attack claimed by the Islamic State group left 12 people dead at a Christmas market in Berlin. Germany has also been ravaged in recent years by far-right terrorist acts.