Expert Opinion: The “Balcony Guy” Did Exactly the Right Thing

Last night we posted a video made by the woman who brought a legal complaint against the “balcony guy”, the Bavarian man who hurled insults from his apartment balcony at Ali David Sonboly during the latter’s shooting rampage in Munich on July 22 (see the original video of the exchange).

The following article was published at not long after the massacre. It includes quotes from an expert who believes, contrary to the complainant, that the balcony guy used exactly the right tactic, confounding and confusing the shooter with his shouted insults and thereby delaying him.

Egri Nök, who did the translation, includes this note:

This article appeared shortly after the shooting and is full of errors when referring to the dialogue, possibly because the psychologist was given a faulty transcript.


  • It was one man, not two men.
  • The first of the two anti-foreigner insults was shouted by Ali himself, not by the steam shovel operator on the balcony.
  • The line “what makes you German?” is not heard in the video and seems to spring partly from bad audio and partly from fantasy on the journalist’s part.

The result was to make the steam shovel operator look “meaner” (more xenophobic) than he actually was.

The translated article:

“Confounding is the only chance” — neighbors insult spree killer — why this was exactly the right tactic

Saturday, July 23, 2016
by FOCUS online editor Linda Hinz

A bewildering video of the perpetrator surfaced by the evening of the rampage: it appears to have been recorded by neighbors in an opposite house. It shows the perpetrator on a parking deck. He holds a pistol, with which he has already shot several people, in his hand.

One can hear a conversation between two men and the spree killer. “You a*****e, you wanker,” the neighbors yell at the armed perpetrator. The men also shout “s*** Kanaken [Turk]”.

It seems highly bewildering that the men should have a go like that at the armed perpetrator. But according to experts, it could have been exactly the right tactics — even if probably subconsciously.

“A spree killer must be confounded”

“If you want to stop or at least thwart a spree killer, you need to confound him,” the amok expert and violence de-escalation trainer Heinz Kraft explains. It is as good as impossible to make a spree killer give up. “This is a completely different case from, for example, a hostage situation. Someone who takes a hostage has a certain aim — and the threat is his means to gain that aim. That is why one can negotiate with him,” Kraft explains in the discussion with FOCUS Online.

With a spree killer, however, this is pointless: “His aim and his means are one and the same: to kill many people. As soon as he fired, he crossed the point of no return. That is why normally you cannot reach him via communication that is aimed at negotiating with or swaying him,” according to the expert.

A few seconds of distraction can save lives

Kraft goes on to explain: “But if you do something that the perpetrator absolutely does not expect, it surprises him — he needs to think and is distracted from his actual scheme for a few seconds. Even if it is just a few seconds, this time can be important: potential victims can seize it to get themselves to safety.”

This was the case with the spree killer of Munich. The 18-year-old Iranian-German reacted to the provocations. He objects, and explains himself: “Because people of you I was bullied. For seven years,” he shouts. Answering the xenophobic insults, he answers: “I am German.” He says he grew up here and was in treatment. The two neighbors even ask back: “What makes you German?” and “So what? What is this s*** you are doing there?” They film what is going on. The spree killer demands that they stop it. Then he fires shots at the building. Only then does he move on.

The video shows him walking up and down the roof. Meanwhile, the police have said that the youth was depressive and at least temporarily in treatment for it.

One of the two men was a steam shovel operator: “I was not afraid”

One of the two swearing men was the 57-year-old steam shovel operator Thomas S. He told Bild newspaper: “I was drinking my quitting-time beer when I heard the first shots.” The parking deck is right under his apartment. He threw a beer bottle at him. Then, he insulted him in broad Bavarian dialect. He shouted to the police that the perpetrator was on the parking deck. When the perpetrator shot at him, he ducked. “I was not afraid. I did not know if it was blank or real ammunition.” The other man on the video supposedly is a neighbor, who recorded the video.

Security forces use distraction maneuvers, too

“Even if this form of distraction was not a conscious decision — it worked temporarily. The perpetrator was not expecting this. He probably expected people to plead with him to stop. When people did something completely different, he reacted. A thought process started, and it took quite a while, until he realized that the men were delaying him. Both probably were at a safe distance and from there could attempt to influence him,” says Kraft.

He refers to security forces that in rampage situations also bet on distraction — for example by detonating so-called “irritation devices”. What’s more, there is a scientific term for this bewildering behavior: paradox intervention. “It means acting in a way that a neutral observer would find absurd and completely inappropriate.”

16 thoughts on “Expert Opinion: The “Balcony Guy” Did Exactly the Right Thing

  1. This is related to why the people who dress up as superheroes and patrol neighborhoods are effective in deterring crime.

    If someone is walking around in a batman outfit, criminals have a very difficult time predicting that person’s behavior. They will be thinking stuff like “Is this guy nuts? Does he really think he’s batman?” and they have a very hard time figuring out what the guy in the batman outfit is going to do. This is confusing and unnerving.

    Pretending to be insane can also frighten off less determined, more casual potential attackers as it tends to frighten them into thinking the “insane” person might do anything without any sense of self-preservation.

    • The unwritten rule of conflict with strangers (in public): If I can’t determine whether a person is crazier than myself, then don’t up the ante. (Similarly, don’t have sex with anyone crazier than yourself.)

      Of course, the trick is making the determination of the stranger. An example: I once lived in the heart of Earthy-crunchy Granola Land and so-called “Lesbian haven”, Northampton (Central) Massachusetts. I was driving into a bottleneck and I beat a woman into it and cut her off a bit too much. She followed me to the parking lot of the store to which I was heading–a few miles from the bottleneck. She followed me into the store and I realized that she was going to confront me in front of everyone. Before she could reach me, I approached her, stuck my finger in her face and said, “You are NOT going to do this, you have no idea how crazy I am.”

      She stopped, said nothing at all and walked away. It worked splendidly. I always wondered whether I should have done that in the parking lot and not waited for her to follow me into the store. I think the others standing around helped her to reconsider.

      • But…but you were simply driving like any other Massachusetts driver. Why did she take exception to the norm?

        Have to say I admire your fast thinking. “You have no idea how crazy I am” moves a confrontation with a stranger to a whole different level, particularly if you know two things: (1) that they’re sober, and (2) they’re not armed.

        In other words, a meta-move in Massachusetts could be a death wish in Texas.

        • Agreed. Context is all. When I tripped a guy who was hassling other women on BART, I was seated in full view of many by the exit door. I moved my cane surreptitiously and the…ah…overly energetic young man somehow lost his footing. Oh, dear…. 😉 One other woman *thought* I might have had something to do with his problem, but I just kept my usual “public transportation” face on and didn’t respond to her speaking glance.

          I could never, ever have done that on the open sidewalk.

      • I was once inter-railing about Europe and palled up with an English lad for a while. We were walking down a street in Germany and some local guy thought he would have a go.

        The English lad didn’t have a clue how to deal with it, he was totally out of his depth. I was not.

        At that time I was really into weightlifting, had played rugby for years, & was working as a welder (we used to have ‘strongman’ competitions in the workship & my party trick was to bend steel rod with my bare hands).

        And I was building a pretty decent collection of tattoos, which at that time was not the norm at all. So anyhow, I looked a bit scary and when I turned round and approached the German guy who fancied a bit of action, and gave him a mouthful of abuse in my own dialect, which no one in the European continent had a hope of understanding, and accompanied that with some violent hand gestures …. he STFU and scuttled away …

        Confrontation can work. But you have to be willing to go. The other party can usually see that in your eyes, & if they’re only interested in insults, but don’t really fancy a spot of fisticuffs, then they’ll back off.

        If they don’t, then it’s game on.

      • Another time, I was walking along in Amsterdam & felt my pocket being picked. I caught this drugged up darkie in the act of stealing my money – he informed me that his pals were coming over to help him out, but that didn’t impress me. He was about to find out how crazy I could get, and if his pals really were coming over, they’d see it too & could judge for themselves whether they wanted a taste.

        I gave him a tremendous right, full force, then stamped on his [goolies] with my cowboy boots, it was like dropping a boulder on two fried eggs, then dragged him over to one of the railings at the side of the canal and gave his napper a few dirls, which totally settled his hash, and I somehow managed to restrain myself from throwing him in the canal, unconscious (he would definitely have drowned & I would have been facing a murder charge.) I looked around and funnily enough, his druggie pals weren’t coming to his aid at all.

        The Beast in Me

        • Yes! A well applied ‘concrete facial’ after a proper ‘defense’ is usually enough to thwart the actions of criminal vermin.

      • This goes to the fundamentals: why should anyone allow themselves to be robbed or assaulted, then wait till after it’s happened, then hope that agents of the state will come a-running, & that they’ll be able to penalise the offender?

        What good is that anyway – you’ll still have been assaulted, possibly injured, possibly with permanent results. Far better to prevent that from happening. And make the offender pay right then and there.

        A bit more of that attitude, & the world would be a much better (and safer) place.

        I was once aboard a plane in Dyce, flyng to London. An announcement came over the tannoy saying there was a delay, because an extra suitcase had been found on the plane.

        Immediately, every one of the big hairy Scotsmen on board started scanning the passengers – you could almost taste the potential for violence, I kid you not.

        If some rampant jihadist had started mouthing off aboard the plane right then, I guarantee you that he would have had the stuffing kicked out of him on the spot, and long before the so-called ‘authorities’ could have arrived & done something about it. Direct action really is sometimes the way to go.

      • ‘A man who wishes to profess goodness at all times will come to ruin among so many who are not good. Therefore, it is necessary for a prince who wishes to maintain himself to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge or not to use it according to necessity.’

        Niccolo Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, Chapter 15.

  2. I once feigned an epicleptic seizure…yes that is the correct spelling . It was the most jarring, mouth foaming bit of crazed acting I had ever done. I did it to distract the thugs who held us up at gunpoint. My sister shrieked about me dying and my little brother said If I died, they’d all go to jail for murder.
    Needless to say, they let us go. It was hard not to laugh.

  3. …. get themselves to safety.

    I’ve been working on outrunning bullets. I can’t seem to get that worked out to my satisfaction.

    • “Get themselves to safety.” I just love that excuse for a plan. It’s usually used by people who object to owning firearms.

  4. I call it a “saloon story” now……
    30-odd years ago, I walked into my house, in the dark, right into a shotgun, the point of my nose in the barrel. One second went by (one breath), and I said, real loud, “Shoot, or get out!” Nothing, and still couldn’t see the shooter. Third second; I yelled, “Who’s gonna clean up this mess?” shooter dropped the weapon and took off.
    I never got a firm ID, not gender, race, nothing. Nothing amiss in the house.
    Didn’t call the law, nothing happened. Sold the gun to a friend.
    I still wonder why I survived that meeting, and I sometimes wonder what happened to the shooter…and I still laugh every time I remember that incident!
    I’m all in for freaking the aggresser out, sooner the better!

  5. The go-getters on this thread have a lot in common with our CJ friend, David Wood. I watched this particularly video either Thursday or Wednesday of this week (being sick for 6 days now, they’re all tending to run together, esp. w/ 1 or 2 hours of sleep a night and none otherwise).

    David Wood answers death threats he receives online from jihadis by “getting into their minds”: . I thought I would hurt myself laughing. But it’s a good reminder that mental sharpness can *sometimes* distract people in ways that head-on aggression, esp. from those of us with injuries in our past, might not.

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