3 Dead, 5 injured in Utrecht attack after carjacking: Police; Woman targeted says witness

24 Oktoberplein shooting in Utrecht
The scene of a shooting on the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht. 18 March 2019photo: Politie

21:00, 18 March 2019: A spokesperson for the Utrecht municipality revised the number of wounded in an interview with NL Times.. The city's mayor originally said nine people were injured, a figure also confirmed by police. That was later changed to five people injured, a figure also confirmed by police. Three of those hurt were in serious or critical condition.

Three people were killed, and five others were injured in the Monday morning attack on a tram at the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht, according to the police and the city's mayor Jan van Zanen. At least three of the victims are in serious or critical condition. While terrorism is under suspicion as the primary motive according to the mayor, witnesses said it looked as though the suspect was targeting a woman and then anyone who tried to help her.

"My thoughts are with the relatives of the victims and with the people who witnessed it. Really terrible," he said in a video posted to Twitter.

The video was posted as a manhunt was underway for Gökmen T., a 37-year-old man born in Turkey. "There is probably at least one perpetrator, but there may also be several perpetrators," Van Zanen said on camera. "We cannot exclude, in fact we assume, a terrorist motive."

Witness Daan Molenaar was on a tram when the shooting took place. He told broadcaster NOS that he saw a woman lying in the road. As people gathered around her, he claimed to see a man approaching with a gun.

"At first someone tried to open the door, luckily it opened," he said. "Then I heard shots to my left... Then I started running very fast," he said.

"It seemed as if he wanted to catch that person again, or maybe the people who were helping her."

The suspect, Gökmen T., was reportedly the suspect in a 2017 rape case that was heard in court just two weeks ago. He also faced off with police on a number of other issues since 2013, reported RTV Utrecht.

T. was accused of shooting at an apartment in the Kanaleneiland section of Utrecht, and near where Monday's shooting took place, back in December 2013. He was investigated for both attempted manslaughter and serious assault in that case. 

Other investigations included suspicion of threatening a woman, verbally abusing a woman, insulting and threatening police, theft, burglary, driving under the influence, and urinating in a holding cell, RTV Utrecht stated.

Shortly after the mayor's statement was published, police in Utrecht revealed more details in the investigation. "Just before the shooting incident on the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht, there was a carjacking on the Amerikalaan [where] a red Renault Clio was taken. The car involved was later found on the Tichelaarslaan."

According to broadcaster NOS, a woman reported the car to police after it had been left with the engine running for several hours. She said there was a note in the vehicle, but she refused to say what was written upon the note. The site is about five kilometers away from the shooting.

The shooting happened at about 10:45 a.m. on Monday, police said. Three helicopter ambulances were dispatched to the scene, the first within a few minutes of the shooting. Two police helicopters were brought in to survey the incident, which was elevated to a Grip 1 emergency by 11:27. That brings in a coordinated response plan between all emergency services. It was escalated to a Grip 2 moments later, and then a Grip 3 by 1:30 p.m., which involves full emergency services coordination in consultation with the mayor's office, the Interior Ministry, and the King's Commissioner for the region.