- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BERLIN (AP) - The family of a German teenager who killed 15 people in a shooting spree expressed their shock and sorrow Tuesday for the tragedy.

Tim Kretschmer’s parents and sister said they never imagined him capable of gunning down nine students and three teachers at his former high school, then slaying three bystanders before taking his own life.

“We keep asking ourselves over and over again how this could happen. Why we didn’t notice his despair and hatred,” they said in an open letter addressed to the victims, their first public statement since the killings last Wednesday.

“Until this terrible event we were a completely normal family,” they wrote “We never thought Tim capable of something like this and knew him as a different person.”

Prosecutors in Stuttgart said preliminary results of an autopsy confirmed that Kretschmer died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The fatal shot came amid a shootout with police, and prosecutors said he was also struck by two police bullets _ one to the ankle, the other to his knee.

The Kretschmer family’s statement was released a day after authorities said they were investigating Tim Kretschmer’s father on involuntary manslaughter charges for failing to secure the pistol used in the attack.

Authorities have said Kretschmer used a 9mm Beretta pistol that belonged to his father. The man allegedly kept the gun unsecured in his bedroom in violation of German law. The father’s other 14 firearms were properly secured.

Police and prosecutors also cited as a factor the father’s apparent knowledge that his son had received psychiatric treatment for depression.

The family’s letter was released in the name of the “Kretschmer family.” The parents’ full names were not given.

“The most valuable and important thing, a beloved person, was taken from you by the horrible and incompressible act of our son and brother,” the letter said.

“We are shocked and stand crying and silent before this incomprehensible tragedy. We want to express our deepest sympathy to the victims, family and friends. All of our thoughts are with those injured in body and spirit.”

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