World·CBC in Munich

Munich mourns after deadly mall shooting

As, one by one or in small family groups, the people of Munich come to lay flowers, place notes or light candles, the main sentiment most mourners strained to convey is the hope this terrible attack will not change their city.

All of Germany has 'heavy hearts,' Chancellor Angela Merkel says

Candles and a letter reading 'We are with you' lie in front of Munich's Olympia shopping centre on Saturday, one day after an 18-year-old gunman killed nine people and wounded several others. (Sven Hoppe/AFP/Getty Images)

As, one by one or in small family groups, the people of Munich come to lay flowers, place notes or light candles, the main sentiment most mourners strained to convey is the hope this terrible attack will not change their city.

The gunman, an 18-year-old German of Iranian descent, first shot people at a McDonald's before moving across the street to the Olympia shopping mall in the culturally diverse, thriving middle-class neighbourhood of Moosach.

Nine people, mostly young, were killed, more than two dozen others wounded.

"This was a single man who was sick. This wasn't a terror attack like in France. It's horrible, but I don't think it will change the city," says Alexandra, a tall mother of three who has come with her husband and young children to lay a delicate bouquet of daffodils near the mall.

"It could have happened anywhere, but it happened in Munich. We have seen what our government and security did," she says, referring to a response that included some 2,300 officers the night of the attack, "so we are not afraid."

Nique' Comfort, an immigrant from Togo who's lived in the Moosach neighbourhood for 13 years, also came to lay flowers outside the mall.

She says her husband and son had just left the McDonalds five minutes before the shooting started.
Local resident Britta came to lay flowers near the Olympia shopping centre on Saturday. The mall is located in a culturally diverse middle-class neighbourhood. (Megan Williams/CBC)

"After a close call like that, your first reaction is to have fear, to be afraid to go out in public," she says, pointing to the bus stop in front of the mall where she waits for her bus to work each day.

But, she says, she trusts that will pass.

"In Munich we feel secure. Even black people, we feel safe here. For now." 

As the city and country mourn the dead, authorities continue their investigation into the attacker's deadly motives.

What has emerged so far is that the young shooter, who local media have identified as Ali David Sonboly, acted alone. Police say he had no connection to ISIS or even right-wing extremist groups, as initially suspected, and that he suffered from mental illness. He may have even lured some of his victims to McDonald's with an invitation on Facebook for free food.

Gunman 'obsessed' with mass shootings

A short drive from the neighbourhood where the killings took place is the middle-class apartment building where Sonboly lived with his parents and younger brother, its entrance beside a bright café.

A police raid on the apartment produced evidence of an obsession with mass killings. Newspaper clippings kept by Sonboly, say police, showed he was particularly fixated on the attack carried out in Norway by Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people exactly five years ago to the day Sonboly carried out his attack.

A neighbour of the gunman described the 18-year-old as introverted and appearing "under a lot of pressure." (Megan Williams/CBC)

Floren, a father of young girls who has lived downstairs from the family for the past five years, describes the young man as introverted, depressed and appearing "under a lot of pressure."

"He was too quiet," Floren says of Sonboly, who he last saw three days ago. "He looked like he needed psychiatric help. I feel very sorry for the parents."

As police continued to search for a motive for the killing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cut short a vacation to convene an emergency security meeting Saturday before addressing the nation.

She said the whole of Germany is "mourning with heavy hearts" and suffering alongside the families who lost loved ones. 

Already Germans were shaken by an attack earlier in the week, when a 17-year-old refugee injured four people with an axe on a commuter train north of Munich.

On the heels of the murderous truck assault in the French city of Nice, Merkel said it's understandable people feel uneasy, and are asking themselves "Where is safe?"

Police stand guard outside the McDonald's where Friday's shooting rampage started. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)