On Tuesday morning, Benjamin Herman walked behind policewomen Lucile Garcia, 53, and Soraya Belkacemi, 45, and began stabbing them wildly. The two women had been on foot patrol in Liege, Brussels and, until that moment, their day had been peaceful. As they struggled to react through the pain and surprise, Herman took advantage of their disorientation by taking their guns and executing the policewomen with them. (Flanders News)
He then walked over to a parked car and shot the 22-year old student, Cyril Vangrieken, who was sitting in the passenger seat. Having killed again, Benjamin Herman went looking for more victims.
After the first gunshots, people had fled the area. Herman, failing to find easy targets, went in and out of a cafe and eventually walked into a nearby school. With police closing in, he took a hostage.
From the BBC:
Named only as Darifa by Belgian media, the cleaner said Herman had burst in and asked her two questions: was she a Muslim, and was she observing Ramadan?
She answered yes to both, she said, and he replied that he would not harm her. She then attempted to persuade him he should not be in the school with children.
Herman was unmoved by her request… but he was motivated to act when the police came within sight. Two officers received gunshot wounds in their legs while two other officers received arm wounds before Herman was shot dead.
Investigators have now determined that Herman had killed the night before his spree, bludgeoning to death a man named Michael Wilmet that Herman had met in prison. Herman had spent extensive time in prison due to assault and drug offenses, and Belgian authorities have reported that he appears to have been radicalized while in prison. Recordings taken from the attack clearly show him yelling “Allahu Akbar” as he fired the stolen guns at police and civilians.
The murders have triggered internal reviews, as Herman had been given an early release from a sentence which was due to end in 2020. Per the South African Times, some government officials are, as yet, unwilling to assign even tenuous blame:
Interior Minister Jan Jambon urged caution over the extremist angle.
“There are signals that there was radicalisation in the prison but did this radicalisation lead to these actions? There, too, we can ask ourselves a lot of questions,” he told RTL radio.
Flags were flown at half staff throughout the country on Wednesday in a sign of mourning.