A car drove at high speed into a pedestrian zone in the southwestern German city of Trier on Tuesday, killing at least four people, including a young child, and seriously injuring 15 others before the driver was stopped by police.
The driver, identified as a 51-year-old German man from the area, was arrested at the scene and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police said.
The man was being questioned and there was no immediate indication of his motive, authorities said.
Rhineland-Palatinate state governor Malu Dreyer, who comes from Trier, said the dead included a young child and condemned it as a “brutal act.”
“It was a really, really terrible day for my hometown,” Dreyer told reporters after visiting the scene.
Police said the driver appeared to have plowed into pedestrians indiscriminately as he drove through the city center shortly before 2 p.m.
Roger Lewentz, the state interior minister, commended security forces on their reaction, saying that they had stopped the car and taken the suspect into custody within four minutes of receiving the first call.
Footage from the scene showed people outside a shop apparently helping someone on the ground lying among scattered debris.
“It was simply terrible,” Mayor Wolfram Leibe told n-tv television after visiting the site.
Leibe said the perpetrator “drove through the pedestrian zone, clearly at high speed, and killed several people and injured several, some of them seriously.”
The driver was alone in the car, police said.
“I don’t want to speculate, but all of us are asking ourselves … what drives a person to do something like this?” Leibe said. “Of course I don’t have an answer to this question.”
The area was being kept shut down until at least Wednesday morning for police to collect evidence, but there was no longer any danger, Leibe said.
In a video posted by a local media outlet purportedly showing the arrest, police could be seen pinning a man down on the sidewalk next to a car with Trier license plates. The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified and it was taken down shortly after police tweeted a request that people do not share photos and videos of the scene.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, tweeted that the scene was “shocking.”
“Our thoughts are with the relatives of those killed and with the numerous injured, and with everyone currently on duty caring for them,” he said.
Trier is about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of Frankfurt, near the border with Luxembourg. The city of about 110,000 people is known for its Roman gate, the Porta Nigra, which is near the scene of the incident, and as the birthplace of Karl Marx.