German police say man caused Ratingen explosion by setting police on fire

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BERLIN — A man who was living with the decomposing corpse of his mother in Germany has been charged with nine counts of attempted murder after spraying police at his apartment door with flammable liquid and setting them on fire.

In a hearing held by North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Affairs Committee on Monday, police revealed the details of a May 11 incident in the western German city of Ratingen that involved rescue workers and armed police units and left 35 people injured. Three rescue workers are still in a life-threatening condition and five others are being treated for serious injuries.

Police went to the 10th-floor apartment after being contacted by the building manager, who said that the 91-year-old tenant had not been seen in some time and that her mailbox was overflowing. Police said it was assumed there was a “helpless person” inside in need of aid.

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After finding the door blocked by cases of bottled water, police smashed a glass pane in the door, cleared the obstruction and entered the apartment where they saw the man, 57, who turned out to be the tenant’s son.

According to authorities, one of the officers drew a sidearm and told the man to lie on the ground, but the man responded by spraying the officers with a flammable liquid — possibly gasoline — and setting them alight. The man then fled to the apartment’s balcony.

“Emergency and rescue services, some of whom were still burning, ran from the 10th floor to the street,” the committee was told by Herbert Reul, the interior minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The police officer who first entered the apartment suffered burns on 80 percent of her upper body, the regional Justice Ministry said.

In a subsequent search of the apartment, investigators found the severely decomposed remains of a woman in a wheelchair. “It could be the 91-year-old mother of the accused. An autopsy on her body revealed no signs of trauma other than a fracture in her lumbar vertebrae. It was probably a natural death,” the ministry official told the committee. The identity is still to be confirmed via a DNA sample.

A 73-year-old man also was found dead in another apartment in the building. It was not clear whether the cases were connected, and investigations of both deaths were opened.

The suspect had a criminal record consisting of minor assault charges in disputes with neighbors and had been fined three times but did not pay the fines. An arrest warrant was issued for him in March, but no one answered the door when police went to inform him of it. A note was left for him in the mailbox.

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After the discovery of documents criticizing coronavirus vaccinations and a large supply of food with distant expiration dates, police concluded that the suspect could be part of the anti-vaccine scene and one of those preparing for some kind of doomsday catastrophe.

Authorities said there was no indication that the suspect’s attack was politically motivated or that there was any connection to the extremist Reichsbürger case, an alleged far-right conspiracy to overthrow the state that made headlines in Germany last year.

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