Utrecht shooter wanted to terrify as many people as possible: Prosecutor

Gökmen T. suspected in the Utrecht shooting on Oktoberplein
Gökmen T., 37, a Turkish-born suspect in the shooting on 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht. 18 March 2019photo: Politie Utrecht

The suspect in last month's mass shooting on a tram in Utrecht wanted to cause fear and confusion on a wide scale, the Public Prosecutor (OM) said on Wednesday. It forms the basis of their accusation that the suspect, Gökmen T., had a purpose of terrorism when he carried out the shooting, for which he is charged with three specific crimes, a spokesperson for the OM told NL Times.

His "terrorist purpose", the OM wrote in a statement, was to "frighten the population, or a part of it," when he committed the three prosecutable offenses. Those include murder or manslaughter with the intent of terrorism, attempted murder or manslaughter, and posing a threat with a terrorist intent, the OM said.

T. reportedly confessed to the shooting that took the lives of four people, including a man who died ten days after the March 18 incident. Two other people were critically wounded, of which one was released and one is still being treated in a hospital. A hearing will be held in court on Thursday where the OM will request that T., a 37-year-old from Utrecht, remain in custody for the next three months while the investigation continues.

"We are working hard to collect and analyze information to investigate what exactly happened that day, and what the motive was for the shooting. It is expected that it will certainly take a few months before the investigation is completed," the OM stated.

The prosecution also is determined to make the legal distinction between "motive" and "purpose" known. While the OM said that the shooting by design was intended to cause panic, his real reason for carrying out the shooting, or the motive, is still unknown.

The shooting on 24 Oktoberplein led to an hours-long manhunt that shut down much of the city. Investigators monitoring T.'s bank account shortly after the shooting were able to help pinpoint a location leading to his arrest. Some 16,000 people arrived in Utrecht from around the country for a memorial honoring the victims days after the incident.