BERLIN (JTA) — The gunman accused of attacking a synagogue in Halle, Germany, in 2019, was recaptured by German authorities after attempting a prison escape.
Stephan Balliet climbed an 11-foot fence during a walk through a prison courtyard on Saturday, but was caught shortly thereafter and taken back into custody. By Wednesday he had been transferred to a maximum security prison.
“I’m really speechless,” Max Privorozki, the chairman of the Jewish Community in Halle, told the Jüdische Allgemeine. “For me, what happened yesterday was very evil and an unexpected surprise. It’s probably not surprising that the attacker would attempt to flee, but the fact that he would have been able to, that’s the problem.”
Anne-Marie Keding, the minister of justice in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, called the incident “horrible” in an interview with Deutschen Presse-Agentur. “There must be consequences.”
The escape attempt comes as the Halle Jewish community finds itself the target of a number of anti-Semitic incidents in recent days. Two swastikas were found drawn on the sidewalk in front of the community building on Grosse Markerstrasse. That came just days after the synagogue received a hate letter.
An investigation into the incidents is underway.
Balliet is scheduled to stand trial this summer for killing two people in the 2019 attack that began during Yom Kippur services. After failing to gain entry to the synagogue where more than 50 people were praying inside, he allegedly shot a woman dead near the entrance to the adjacent Jewish cemetery and subsequently killed a man at a kebab shop.