A baby is among at five people who have been killed after a man drove his car at high speed into pedestrians in the western German city of Trier.
A further fourteen people suffered serious injuries when the 51-year-old, identified as Bernd W from the Trier-Saarburg area, drove his silver four-wheel-drive about a kilometre through a pedestrian area before being rammed by police.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the vehicle as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe, who rushed to the scene, was on the verge of tears as he explained what he saw.
“I just walked downtown and it was awful. It was a sight of horror. There’s a trainer lying there … the little girl it belonged to is dead,” he told broadcaster SWR on Wednesday morning (Australia time).
The state interior minister, Roger Lewentz, said that he believed the driver had intentionally targeted pedestrians, driving in “zigzag lines” to do the most damage.
The driver has been detained and a vehicle seized, police in the southwestern city said. The incident lasted four minutes and played out on multiple streets in the downtown.
Investigators said the suspect was sitting alone in the vehicle during the incident and was not previously known to police.
The suspect is a 51-year-old German man and a local resident, according to a police tweet.
Mr Leibe and the local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, later confirmed four people had died. Among them was a nine-month-old baby, Mr Leibe said.
Local police spokesman Karl-Peter Jochem said the suspect’s actions were deliberate and he appeared to have hit people “at random”.
Prosecutor Peter Fritzen later said the suspect had drunk a significant amount of alcohol and authorities did not think there was any terror motive to the incident.
Mr Leibe said: “It looks as if we are talking about a suspect with mental issues but we should not pass premature judgment.”
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were “totally traumatised” and the street “looks a bit like after a war”.
Rhineland-Palatinate Governor Malu Dreyer, who comes from Trier, condemned the incident as a “brutal act”.
“It was a really, really terrible day for my hometown,” Mr Dreyer said.
Police believe the suspect acted alone and was not armed but cordoned off much of the city centre and asked for people to keep their children at school.
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, called the incident shocking.
“Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims,” he wrote on Twitter.
Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a dark grey Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air.
It said the city centre had been cordoned off and helicopters were circling overhead.
The fire brigade, rescue services and police were at the scene.
The incident shocked residents of Germany’s oldest town, which was founded by the Romans more than 2000 years ago.
Afterward, officers scoured the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying submachine guns.
On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.