Police in the Netherlands arrested Turkish-born Gökmen Tanis, 37, in connection with a mass shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday. Three people were killed by gunfire in and around a tram, authorities said. Utrecht mayor Jan van Zanen tweeted a video in which he said five people were injured as well, including three in serious condition.
The motives of the gunman remain unclear. Authorities said they had not ruled out terrorism, but neither had they ruled out the possibility of some sort of domestic or criminal dispute.
Tanis has had multiple scrapes with the law. In the most recent, prior to Monday he was arrested as the suspect in a rape case, but no verdict has been delivered. He also was involved in a shooting incident in Utrecht in 2013 and charged with illegal weapon possession.
A record of petty crimes may indicate a suspect is nothing more than a petty criminal, but there is also a long record of jihadists, including, for instance, those involved in the November 2015 attacks in Paris, who previously were seen as nothing more than run of the mill lowlifes.
In the highly charged atmosphere of fear and potential jihadist revenge after the mosque massacre in New Zealand on Friday, authorities are taking no chances, and very soon after the tram shooting on Monday morning heavily armed counter-terrorism units moved building-to-building in search of one or more gunmen.
Witnesses tweeted accounts of the shooting, including seeing a badly injured woman staggering from the tram while gunshots popped inside the carriage. Local television also showed a white tarpaulin over at least one body near the tram line.
Pieter-Jaap Aalsberg, the country’s national anti-terror coordinator, initially told reporters that they do not exclude more than one shooter was involved. “The culprit is still on the run,” he said during a brief press conference. “A terror motive cannot be excluded.”
Tanis was apprehended after a red car he reportedly had hijacked before the shooting, then used to get away afterward, was recovered. His identity was determined by evidence found in the vehicle, and he was tracked down to a building nearby among the canals in the old city of Utrecht.
Anti-terror coordinator Aalsberg said schools and local air and public transportation had been halted while the manhunt was underway. The terrorism threat level in Utrecht was raised to 5, the highest level. The rest of the country remained under terror threat level 4. The level may now be lowered in Utrecht as well.
The shooting comes days before a key senatorial election. Far-right politician Geert Wilders, who has built his following around anti-Islamic sentiment, announced by Twitter that he would suspend his campaign due to the shooting. “Terrible news from Utrecht,” he tweeted. “Tribute to all emergency services and my thoughts go to victims and their neighbors. Rightly so, our campaign has been shut down under these circumstances.”
This story is being updated with breaking news.