Police reported that the driver repeatedly tried to hit passers-by in different areas — first in the city of Bottrop, then in Essen; both are situated in the North Rhine-Westphalia federal state. In Bottrop, the suspect drove towards a pedestrian, before targeting a group of migrants from Syria and Afghanistan.
"At Berliner Platz, he once again rammed [his car] into a group of people. As a result, at least four people, including Syrian and Afghan nationals, were injured, with some of them sustaining serious injuries," the statement, published on Presseportal.de website, said.
According to law enforcement, the attack took place shortly after midnight. The driver tried to flee to Essen and ram his vehicle into a crowd there as well, but was stopped and arrested by police before he could inflict further damage.
Police in German town of Bottrop say driver hit pedestrians in a 'targeted attack', possibly racially motivated. https://t.co/pHcbZ0vBPa— Olwen Atanackovic (@oli_at) January 1, 2019
As the authorities specified, the attacker was making anti-foreigner comments during his arrest. They believe the attack was premeditated.
In #Bottrop und #Essen hat gestern Nacht ein 50-Jähriger versucht Syrer und Afghanen mit seinem Auto umzufahren. 4 Menschen wurden verletzt.Die Polizei geht von einem fremdenfeindlichen Motiv des Fahrers aus. Der Mann aus #Essen wurde festgenommen. @RTLWEST pic.twitter.com/VeYEosYDiq— Thomas Bosse (@ThomasBosse) January 1, 2019
However, as police said, there are some indicators of the attacker suffering from mental illness.