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Brave teacher stopped gun rampage

"Look me in the face," the teacher told Steinhauser (above)  

ERFURT, Germany -- Police have praised the bravery of a teacher who risked death to confront massacre student Robert Steinhauser and end his gun rampage.

The teacher, Rainer Heise, told Germany's ZDF television that after he had already killed 16 people, he had grabbed the youth's shirt and tried to talk to him.

"He then pulled off his mask and I said 'Robert?'," Heise said, calling it a Ninja-style mask.

"I said go ahead and shoot me, but look me in the face." Steinhauser replied: "That's it for today," and briefly let down his guard, Heise said.

"I pushed him into the room and locked the door."

Steinhauser, who held a grudge because he had been expelled from the Johann Gutenberg school at Erfurt, eastern Germany, shot himself shortly afterwards.

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The failed student was a gun club marksman who used his training to shoot many of his 16 victims -- 13 teachers, two pupils and a police officer -- in the head at close range. Another 10 injured people are still in hospital.

Steinhauser ran amok in his former school firing 40 rounds from a pistol in a 20-minute frenzy. He was also carrying a legally owned pump-action shotgun, but did not use it.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder flew to Erfurt, 320 km (200 miles) south of Berlin, on Saturday for a mourning ceremony. He placed a bouquet of flowers in front of the school during a short and sorrow-filled visit.

CNN's Diana Muriel joined relatives of the victims at the memorial service in Erfurt on Saturday night as the town and the rest of Germany struggled to understand what provoked the slaughter.

Police said Steinhauser had access to enough ammunition -- around 1,000 rounds -- to kill hundreds of people. He had licences for both weapons, and for two more that he was not carrying.

The killing has prompted Germany to question the wisdom of its gun laws under which 10 million weapons are legally held.

It has also led to calls for tighter rules on violent computer games.

An unidentified man sets a candle among flowers outside the school on Saturday
An unidentified man sets a candle among flowers outside the school on Saturday  

In a sign that the bloodbath may feature in the campaign for national elections this year, Edmund Stoiber, conservative challenger to Schroeder, said violent games should be banned.

According to Der Spiegel news magazine, Steinhauser spent much of his time playing violent computer video games. His favourite was called "Counterstrike" in which anti-terror units wearing masks battle each other to death.

Steinhaeuser also wore a black mask and dark clothes to carry out his attack.

Photos of Steinhauser on the front pages of newspapers showed a pale-faced, short-haired, ordinary-looking young man with a hard stare.

He had failed to qualify with the rest of his class to take the rigorous school-leaving examination last year and was forced to repeat the final year, but was expelled in February for forging absentee excuse notes.

He lived with his mother, a hospital nurse, in a well-kept, four-storey apartment building about 10 minutes from school. His parents are separated.

Based on comments from former classmates, teachers and other people who knew Steinhauser, it appeared he had carefully planned the assault in advance.

Police said they were checking reports he sent a fellow pupil a mobile phone message warning him not to come to school that day.

A former classmate, Isabell Hartung, told Reuters that Steinhauser was intelligent and well-liked by his peers. But she said he often fought with teachers and had "bad relations with his parents."

She said he once told her: "One day, I want everyone to know my name and I want to be famous."

-- CNN Correspondent Diana Muriel contributed to this report


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