German convicted of murder after killing above mask rules

BERLIN — A man in Germany was convicted of murder and sentenced to life on Tuesday for fatally shooting a gas station employee following a dispute over face masks.

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked the country. The defendant was also found guilty of illegal possession of weapons because he did not have a license for the weapon used in the murder, German news agency dpa reported.

Authorities say the 50-year-old told officers he acted ‘out of anger’ when trying to buy beer at the gas station after the 20-year-old employee refused to serve him without a mask.

At the time, Germany required the use of masks in stores to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Police say the suspect, a German citizen identified in local media as Mario N., left the gas station after the argument, but returned half an hour later and shot the employee in the head.

He initially fled the scene but turned himself in after police launched a full-scale manhunt.

The state court in Bad Kreuznach found that the defendant’s radical right-wing stance and his enmity towards the state were the main motives for the murder, dpa reported.

He said the defendant viewed the clerk as a representative of the state and its coronavirus policy, and decided to “make an example” of him after he insisted on the mask mandate.

Defense attorneys at the trial, which lasted six months, had asked for a manslaughter conviction. They argued there were limits to the extent to which the suspect, who an expert said was intoxicated when the fatal shot was fired, could be held criminally responsible for his actions.

Prosecutors had asked the court to find the defendant “seriously guilty”, which would have effectively barred him from early release after 15 years, which is typical for those sentenced to life in Germany. The judges did not.

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