Postcard from... Burghausen


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Candles have been flickering in a backyard in the provincial Bavarian town of Burghausen nearly every night for the past few months. They mark the spot where an unarmed 33-year-old German of Russian extraction, identified only as Andreas B, as is customary under German law, was shot dead by plain-clothed police officers on 25 July.

He was on his way to visit his girlfriend when officers tried to arrest him over drugs charges. He was gunned down as he ran from them, one shot hitting him fatally in the neck.

Officers claim they used their firearms legally to prevent a suspect escaping. Andreas B was wanted for possessing three kilos of marijuana and drug dealing.

But the case has shocked Germany, and not only because of the disproportionate use of firearms against an unarmed man. It has also raised questions about the prudence of a policing system which allows police to carry and use handguns as matter of course.

Last year alone, German police shot at 42 suspects they were attempting to detain, killing eight in the process. The officer who shot and killed Andreas B maintains he was “aiming at his legs”. He has been suspended from duty as Bavaria’s interior minister investigates, but it is unclear if anyone will be put on trial.