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Gunman runs amok at crowded Rotterdam cafe: one dead, 3 injured

By Adriana Stuijt     Apr 11, 2009 in Crime
A gunman described as 'Hindustani' emptied his pistol at hundreds of patrons at a crowded Dutch cafe early Saturday during a talent contest. One man was killed at once, three were injured: one man in a wheelchair was hit in a leg. Why is still a mystery.
None of the three injured people have life-threatening injuries, although one young man was hit in the spine, said a hospital spokesman.
There was a talent contest going on in Cafe Laurenshof at the Poolster Square in the Rotterdam suburb of Oosterflank at the time. Patrons who were interviewed by the Rotterdam daily Algemeen Dagblad said there was a cordial, relaxed atmosphere and everybody was friendly.
Ex policeman Richard Lengton (45) also prevented many more deaths by overpowering the man, said the Rotterdam police. The former CID-cop, who was at the café with his girl-friend to watch a friend's performance, had attacked the gunman while endangering his own life: he'd seen his good friend Terry Hoekman shot dead and didn't hesitate, police told De Telegraaf newspaper.
Patrons described the gunman as 'a unknown stranger, a small man of Hindustani appearance, who had been behaving in an increasingly annoying manner throughout the evening,' according to De Telegraaf."After a while, people got tired of his behaviour and he was sent away to calm down outside. He wasn't assaulted, or bashed about, he was just 'gently encouraged with a little shove to go outside and calm down,'according to witnesses interviewed by De Telegraaf.
However within half an hour of being shown the door, the same man had allegedly returned with 'a big pistol' and fired off three, four shots which hit hit patron Terry Hoekman, 46, straight in the heart, said bystanders.
The 'Hindustani man' then allegedly had walked further into the cafe, pointing and shooting anyone in his path.
One man from Rotterdam, Richard van der Vegt, was hit in the stomach and collapsed. Another boy of Rotterdam, named only as Daniel, also was hit in the hip. And the man then allegedly also shot straight at an unnamed, disabled man in a wheelchair, hitting him in one hand.
"This small Hindustani man was walking around with his weapon, pointing it at everyone, as if he wanted to execute everybody, shouting ''Where is he, where is he', witnesses told De Telegraaf.
The moment the alleged gunman's back was turned, the ex-cop Lengton jumped on the gunman, and felled the man with one blow from a fist against the head -- and then sat on him. Patrons rushed to help him and within minutes, police in bullet-proof vests also arrived to arrest the 44-year-old man. Some patrons admitted that they'd given the man some 'pretty good kicks and blows' because they were so angry and upset.
Fatally-injured Hoekman's wife Edith was overwhelmed by grief when she realised that reanimation of her shot husband had failed. De Telegraaf writes that Edith had just participated in the song-contest and people said they'd all enjoyed her performance. "And just moments later, she had to witness her husband's death.'
A witness, named only as Angelique, said there also seemed no motive for the shootings.
"It wasn't a liquidation, nobody knew this man at all. There had been no fight, he'd merely been asked to leave, he was placed outside the front door. This man was mad, he just came to spread death and destruction.'.see
Handgun ownership illegal for civilians:
It is illegal for 'civilians' to own handguns in The Netherlands. However they can be purchased very easily from neighbouring Belgium, where handgun-ownership is legal.
One person was wounded inside and three people were hit on the street, one fatally, the police spokesman said. The incident happened just before 01:00 am Friday.
All this week, cities and towns all over The Netherlands are reporting a flood of complaints from residents about extremely rowdy behaviour of local youths, who are holding Easter parties in the streets because it's such balmy weather.
Police said the square outside the cafe also was unusually busy because of the warmish spring weather.
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Paramedics unsuccessfully tried to reanimate the first victim, a 46-year-old man from Rotterdam who apparently was a friend of the café owner. The suspect was described by witnesses as wearing a cap and having behaved erratically and picking fights with people earlier that evening.
Some people had in fact told him to go away just before he started shooting. One patron was hit in his spine by a bullet inside the cafe, said one witness, identified only as "Madelon'. "He just shot like a wild man,' she said. "At first I thought it was a fake pistol, but then I saw fire spewing from the barrel as he was firing it.'
Some patrons barricaded themselves inside the toilets, others fled from the door in a panic. One man, identified as "Peter", remained with his friend who'd been shot in the back and had collapsed on the floor, while the man kept on shooting, writes the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper in Rotterdam.
Ambulance personnel still tried to reanimate him, but he died in the doorway. A third victim -- a man in a wheelchair -- was hit in a leg. The fourth victim suffers an injury to a hand.
Scores of police officers now are questioning witnesses at the Alexandrium Shopping Center, where the café is situated.Shortly after the bloodbath, patrons were seen weeping and dazed, sitting and wandering around the Center. Some said "how could things have gotten this out of hand?'
"It was a very nice atmosphere here, no problems. Everybody was singing, dancing...' said Peter before climbing into the ambulance with his injured friend.The three victims are reportedly not seriously injured, a hospital spokesman said.
Just a week earlier, the Rotterdam mayor decided to close another cafe, ‘Le Bateau’ on the infamous Kruiskade entertainment strip for a period of six month."The reason for this measure was the large number of violent crimes inside and around this cafe,' said the mayor on the Rotterdam police website.
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