Armed assailant on campus


An “Amokläufer” is an armed assailant who is trying to injure or kill people on campus. During this time, the assailant is completely unpredictable and violent. Various types of weapons might be used, e.g. cutting and stabbing weapons or, in the worst-case scenario, guns and automatic weapons. The most common locations for such crimes are schools. Every year, there are between 60 and 80 threats and alarms relating to armed assailants in Germany that are taken seriously by the police – and the frequency is rising. Worldwide, seven to eight attacks by armed assailants resulting in fatalities occur every year. Fortunately, at HTW Berlin there have not been any serious threats or instances of armed assailants. Nevertheless, you should know how to act in such a situation in order to protect yourself and others against injury.

Warning signs

Motives for attacks are often revenge for perceived insults, bullying or other forms of disrespect, either for the person or their abilities. The risk of an attack is often signalled in a very subtle way in advance. Sometimes the person becomes extremely withdrawn and boasts about weapons they own or have access to. Public death threats are often made, for example by means of graffiti or on the internet. Displays of extreme rage often occur prior to the attack. During and just prior to an attack, many assailants have a blank or empty gaze. They are no longer responsive to conversation and barely react to external stimuli.

Behaviour of an armed assailant

The selection of victims is usually random – almost anyone who the assailant sees will be attacked and seriously injured or killed. During the attack, the assailant loses all interest in his or her anonymity and integrity. The incident often ends in suicide.

What to do if you suspect an armed assailant

  • First priority: escape as quickly as possible. Then inform nearby colleagues and the police by telephone (110).
  • Do not set off the fire alarm.
  • Do not run through the hallways.
  • Do not attempt to speak with or stop the assailant. That is exclusively the job of the police.
  • Lock yourself in a room. Barricade the door with furniture from the inside.
  • Do not stand behind the door.
  • Hide your mobile phone (assailants often target people carrying mobile phones).
  • Stick a sign for help on the window, e.g.:

Help! Amok !
10 people trapped
2 injured
Room 504