Mass shooter assaulted prison worker weeks before Utrecht attack

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

Gokmen T., the suspected gunman in a mass shooting in Utrecht on March 18th, assaulted a prison employee a few weeks before the attack on 24 Oktoberplein, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said in a letter to the Tweede Kamer, the Volkskrant reports.

The deputy director of the prison reported the assault on March 8th, but by then T.'s pre-trail custody had already been suspended. Just before T. was released, he received a "disciplinary punishment", Grapperhaus said, though he did not say what this punishment entailed. "In the interest of the investigation", the Minister can not say anything more about the incident.

At the time of the assault, T. was in custody for rape. On March 1st, the Arnhem-Leeuwarden court suspended his pre-trail detention after T. explicitly promised to cooperate with an psychiatric examination and a report by the probation service. According to the newspaper, T. did not hold to these same promises at an earlier stage, after which he was arrested again. 

The man already has a long criminal record, including convictions for theft, burglary, possession of stolen goods, and firearms possession, among other things. According to Grapperhaus, the facts that emerged from T.'s criminal history and the handling of ongoing cases against him, "prompted further evaluation of the functioning of the judicial system on a number of points". He did not say what exactly these points are. 

The Ministry will also investigate whether T. became radicalized in prison and how potential signals of radicalization were dealt with at the time.

T. will appear in court for the first time on July 1st. He is facing multiple charges of murder or manslaughter with terrorist intent, attempts thereto, and threats with terrorist intent. T. confessed to the mass shooting and said that he acted alone when he opened fire on a tram on 24 Oktoberplein. Three people were shot dead at the scene. Three were seriously injured. One of them succumbed to his injuries a week later. 

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