The deadly attack carried out by a masked gunman in eastern Germany would have ended with many more victims if his homemade firearms had not malfunctioned, footage broadcast on a livestreaming platform suggests.
The gunman, who tried to force his way into a synagogue in the town of Halle on Wednesday before killing two people, broadcast his rampage on the Twitch platform.
The footage shows the suspect becoming increasingly frustrated as his homemade weapons repeatedly malfunction. In at least three instances the video shows the suspect pointing a gun directly at a victim only for the weapon to jam.
Calling himself a “loser”, at one point he says: “I have certainly managed to prove how absurd improvised weapons are.”
Germany’s chief federal prosecutor Peter Frank said on Thursday that the suspect wanted to carry out a “massacre” and had about four kilograms of explosives in his car.
A mission statement that the suspect uploaded to Kohlchan – the German message board equivalent of 4chan – where it was later found by researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Extremism at King’s College, London, appears to confirm the use of homemade firearms built according to plans released by a British pro-gun activist from West Yorkshire.
Philip Luty, who believed British gun control laws were “fascist”, devoted his life to publicising blueprints for making firearms from easy-to-obtain materials, with the goal of allowing private citizens around the world to flout gun restrictions by building weapons at home.
When he died of cancer in 2011, Luty, 46, was facing three terrorism charges for manuals he had published explaining how to build firearms, including a 9mm submachine gun, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.
The Halle suspect, named by media as 27-year-old German citizen Stephan Balliet, appears to have used one of these home-made Luty submachine guns, as well as other homemade guns and hand grenades, according to the Kohlchan documents.
The documents suggest he used homemade guns intentionally, with the goal of “showing the viability of improvised guns” for people who want to carry out terror attacks but who do not have access to commercially made weapons.
The footage of the shooting suggests the homemade guns malfunctioned, which may have helped prevent more murders. After attacks on both a synagogue and a kebab shop, according to the livestreamed footage, the gunman said: “Sorry, guys, the fucking Luty is shit!”
Both the documents and the livestreamed footage suggest the gunman was a white nationalist, and that he hoped his attack would inspire other white people to kill more Jewish people, as well as other people he perceived as enemies of the white race, including Muslim people, black people, anti-fascists, and communists.
The mission statement also shows that he deliberately chose to carry out his rampage on Yom Kippur but was wary of the synagogue being heavily secured, and considered attacking a mosque or an “antifa culture centre”.
Germany has strict gun laws and rigorous procedures for buying weapons, but it also has very high rates of private gun ownership.
While German authorities have not yet confirmed the types of weapons used in the attack, some arms experts online said it was clear from images of the weapons used in the attack that at least one of the guns was built from a distinctive Luty submachine blueprint.
Luty, described as a “loner” who lived with his parents, was sentenced to four years in prison in 1998 for building a prohibited weapon, a submachine gun, and for illegal possession of ammunition, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
But he continued what he called his “no compromise stance on gun rights issues”, and went on to publish multiple books with an American publisher describing how to make homemade guns.
In 2009, armed anti-terrorism officers raided his home, and he faced new terrorism charges related to “making a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported.
The Metropolitan police and police in West Yorkshire both declined to comment on Wednesday evening.
In Germany, the head of the Central Council of Jews criticised police services on Thursday for having been slow to come to the rescue of the besieged worshippers inside the Halle synagogue.
“It is scandalous that the synagogue in Halle was not protected by police on a holy day like Yom Kippur,” said Josef Schuster.
The Twitch video, reviewed by the Guardian, suggests that the attacker was on the street outside the synagogue for more than five minutes, during which time he shot and killed a passerby, without being approached by law enforcement.
After a visit to the synagogue on Thursday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germans needed to united against extremism.
“Today is a day of shame and disgrace,” Steinmeier said. “I’m very sure the overwhelming majority of this society in Germany wants Jewish life to be part of this country … We must stand together long-term against violence like we experienced here yesterday. We must protect Jewish life.”