WINNENDEN, Germany (AP) - A 17-year-old gunman dressed in black
opened fire at his former high school in southwestern Germany on Wednesday then fled in a hijacked car, killing at least 15 people before police shot him to death, state officials said.
The gunman entered the school in Winnenden and opened fire, shooting at random, police said. He killed nine students, three teachers and a passer-by outside the building, officials said.
"He went into the school with a weapon and carried out a bloodbath," said regional police chief Erwin Hetger. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."
Triggering a land and air manhunt, the gunman hijacked a car, freed the driver and drove about 25 miles (40 kilometers) before police found him. When confronted, he killed two bystanders in a shootout with police before he was slain, Baden Wuerttemburg governor Guenther Oettinger said. Two officers were seriously injured, but there was no immediate information on other casualties.
Four hours after the shootings began, police announced the teenager's death.
Police have identified the gunman only as Tim K, who graduated last year from the school of about 1,000 students.
In their hunt for him, police searched his parents' home in a nearby town. The suspect's father, who is a member of a local gun club, had 16 firearms and one was missing, police said.
Authorities have said the weapon was not a rifle, but have otherwise only called it a "high caliber" firearm.
Police had said that a 10th student died of injuries in a local hospital, but spokesman Klaus Hinderer later changed that report saying that it was wrong and blaming an internal police "communications error."
The death toll brings the killing close to that of Germany's worst school shooting.
In the 2002, 19-year-old Robert Steinhaeuser shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a police officer before turning his gun on himself in the Gutenberg high school in Erfurt, in eastern Germany.
Steinhaeuser, who had been expelled for forging a doctor's note, was a gun club member licensed to own weapons. The attack led Germany to raise the age for owning recreational firearms from 18 to 21.
German Chancellor Angel Merkel called the shooting "a horrific crime."
"It is hard to put into words what happened today, but our sadness and sympathy goes out to the victims' families," Merkel said at a news conference.
The European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, France, stood in silence for a minute, to honor the victims.
"It is our task as responsible politicians in the European Union and, indeed, all the member states to do our utmost that such deeds can be prevented," said EU assembly president Hans-Gert Pottering, a German.