German police kill U.S. soldier who took ex-girlfriend hostage near Schweinfurt
By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 15, 2008
ALTERSHAUSEN, Germany — A 30-year-old soldier based in Schweinfurt died early Friday from gunshot wounds he suffered in a standoff with German police after he broke into the home of a former girlfriend and threatened her at gunpoint.
Neither the Army nor the German police would identify the soldier. Army officials were in the process of notifying the soldier’s family of his death, said Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe. An Army news release on Friday said the soldier belonged to the 2nd “Dagger” Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
The incident occurred in the small, sleepy German village of Altershausen, northeast of Schweinfurt near the town of Königsberg. It ended less than two hours after it began in a farmer’s field just outside of town, when a German police commando unit shot and killed the soldier as he brandished an Army M-4 assault rifle.
“We know he had the gun during the day legally,” said Karl-Heinz Schmitt, a police spokesman. “We don’t know how he got it off base.”
USAREUR officials would not confirm Friday that the weapon had been issued to the soldier. However, a group of Dagger Brigade soldiers was training this week in Schweinfurt for the Expert Infantryman Badge.
The soldier apparently gained access to the woman’s house at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday when he broke a basement window, Schmitt said. The 23-year-old woman, identified by townspeople as Anne Frank, lived in the house with her mother.
Schmitt said the soldier bound the young woman’s hands with a type of flex-cuff, the kind typically used by military police. At this point, Schmitt said, it’s not at all clear exactly what the soldier was trying to achieve, or if he meant to physically harm the woman, his former girlfriend.
Soon afterward, the woman’s mother entered the room, Schmitt said. Somehow at some point, the mother and daughter managed to slip out of the house and get help, presumably from a neighbor who called police.
Michael Abrams / S&S
The house where an American soldier held his ex-girlfriend captive Thursday night. The soldier was later shot in a nearby field. The car at right has two flat tires, that the police believe the soldier flattened.
Schmitt said the former girlfriend was so traumatized that she could not give a full statement to police until Friday afternoon.
German police from the nearby town of Hessford were the first to arrive on the scene, and were soon joined by a large contingent led by a commando, or SWAT, unit from Nuremberg. A helicopter using an infrared device and searchlights detected the soldier in a field a few hundred yards from the house. Schmitt said commandos descended on the scene in bullet-proof vehicles and managed to get close enough to talk to the soldier in English.
“They told him, ‘Don’t move,’ but he didn’t do that,” Schmitt said.
Instead, as the soldier raised his weapon at a commando, he was shot at least twice. The soldier was struck in the upper chest and went down, apparently without firing a shot. It was about 11 p.m.
For a police officer, having a gun pointed at you is “a very dangerous situation,” Schmitt said.
Medical personnel who were part of the task force treated the soldier for nearly an hour in the field, Schmitt said. The soldier was later transferred to Leopoldina Hospital in Schweinfurt, where doctors rushed him into emergency surgery. The soldier died a short time later, the spokesman said.
Schmitt said autopsy was scheduled for Monday. He added that no one other than the soldier required medical attention, and there was no investigation planned into the police’s actions.
Altershausen is a tiny village of several hundred people. There is no bakery, no store, no restaurant. The biggest event of any year is the annual village festival in the summer, said 82-year-old Elfriede Pfeil.
“It’s a town where everybody knows everybody,” Pfeil said.
Wolfgang Schneider, a local farmer, said Anne Frank was born in Altershausen, but moved to the United States with her mother when she was a young girl. The family returned a few years later, when Frank was a young teen. She currently works as a doctor’s receptionist in Königsberg.
“We like her very much,” Schneider said. “She is always active, very happy.”
Staff member Moni Koch contributed to this story.