A gunman opened fire in a packed mall in The Netherlands Saturday, killing six people and wounding at least 10 others before shooting himself dead, an official said.
The shooter was a gun club member with several arms permits who was known to the police, the prosecutor’s office said. “The number of dead now stands at seven,” including the shooter, Bas Eenhoorn, the acting mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn south of Amsterdam, said in a statement. Earlier he had spoken of another 11 wounded, four of them seriously: the latter number dropped to three with the announcement of the latest death. Kitty Nooy of The Hague prosecutor’s office identified the gunman as 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis, a member of a shooting club who had permits for five weapons. He acted alone, she said. “He had in his possession three firearms, but we don’t know at this stage if he used one of them in the course of the shooting,” she added. He had left a farewell letter, she added, without elaborating. In his car, a black Mercedes parked in the shopping centre car park, investigators had found another letter saying that explosives had been placed in three other shopping centres in the town, she said. Van der Vlis lived with his father near the shopping centre, she said. Earlier Saturday, Eenhoorn had said that three other shopping centres in the town had been evacuated “as a precautionary measure”. Mall packed with families The shooting took place around midday (1000 GMT) at the Ridderhof shopping mall, packed with families with children, Eenhoorn told journalists. “A man armed with an automatic firearm opened fire on the crowd… before taking his own life,” Eenhoorn said. Dutch media interviewed survivors who described the gunman as a cold-blooded killer. “He was big and dressed in camouflage pants,” an elderly woman told Dutch public television NOS. “He moved about without haste, killing in cold blood.” Police evacuated the shopping centre, where the shooting sparked mass panic amid early rumours that the killer was not acting alone. Most witnesses said the shooting lasted between 10 and 20 minutes. “Initially, we thought it was fireworks,” 37-year-old Mehdi Attha told AFP. “Then the noises got closer and two people fell to the ground very close to me. “People went over to them to help, thinking that they had fainted. When they understood that someone was firing shots, everyone started running,” she added. “I didn’t see the shooter, I was just thinking about running.” Hajam Leouesset, a young woman who witnessed the slaughter, said: “We saw people running in all directions and we heard them scream. “Then I saw a man firing shots with a type of machine gun and there was blood everywhere,” she said. According to Leouesset, the killer “shot himself with another gun, near the cash registers at the supermarket where I was”. Ronald van Boven, 43, was shopping in the complex when the shooting started. “A supermarket employee grabbed an injured person by the hips and dragged them inside the shop to them under cover,” he told AFP. “There was a lot of blood,” he added. “It is hard to believe that our town could experience such slaughter, and on such a beautiful day,” said Eenhoorn. He was “profoundly shocked”, he added, offering his condolences to the victims’ relatives. Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands had also expressed her distress at news of the shooting and passed on her condolences, said Eenhoorn. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten called the events “a terrible drama”. “One hears of these types of things happening abroad,” Glenn Schoen, a Dutch specialist on security issues, told NOS. “One does not expect that such a bloodbath can happen in a country like the Netherlands.” The NOS television footage broadcast photographs taken of the scene, including one of a man killed in his car, his body hanging from the open door among shards of glass. On April 30, two years ago, a man rammed his car into crowds celebrating the annual Queen’s Day in The Netherlands. He killed seven people and himself, injuring nine others in the attack on the Dutch royal family in the central city of Apeldoorn.