BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A gunman dressed in military gear killed 15 people Wednesday in a shooting spree in two small towns near Stuttgart, police spokeswoman Renate Roesch told CNN, before he was shot dead by police.
The gunman, 17, began his rampage by fatally shooting three teachers and nine students at the Albertville-Realschule school in Winnenden, where he used to be a student, she said.
The shooting, which began around 9:30 a.m., lasted about two minutes, police said.
On his way out of the school, the gunman killed a person who was working in a hospital nearby, then hijacked a car and drove to the nearby town of Wendlingen, where he released the driver of the car but killed two more people before being killed himself in a shootout with police, authorities said.
At least seven people were injured in the shootings, Roesch added. She declined to name the gunman. Watch more about the shootout »
About 1,000 students attend the school where the killings began.
Authorities had sealed the town off and launched an intense manhunt for the man they described as 1.80m (5'11") and heavily armed.
"It is a small town, an idyllic town," said Frank Nipkau, the editor in chief of local Winnenden Zeitung newspaper. "The town people are devastated and they can't understand why this is happening in this town."
Roberto Seifert, who works at a company next to the school, described the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. "Police are coming through the whole time. They're obviously looking all over town for him," he said. "We've never had anything like this," he told Reuters.com by phone.
Security at German schools has been an issue in the past. In November 2006, an 18-year-old former student strapped explosives to his body and went on a rampage at a middle school in western Germany, shooting and wounding six people -- most of them students -- before killing himself.
In July 2003, a 16-year-old student shot a teacher before taking his own life at a school in the southern German town of Coburg.
A year earlier, 18 people were killed when an expelled student went on a shooting spree at his school in eastern Germany.
Another European country, Finland, is planning to toughen firearms laws after two school shootings there left 20 people dead. Those incidents occurred in November 2007 and September 2008.
Finnish news reports on Wednesday said an Interior Ministry working group has issued a proposal calling for age 20 as the minimum age for handgun ownership and 18 as the minimum for rifles. The proposal will be circulated among legislators.
"Under the proposal, a firearm license applicant would be required to provide a certificate from a shooting club instructor to certify that the applicant has practiced shooting at a gun club for two years prior to applying for a permit.
"The ministry also wants applicants' health and behavior to come under closer scrutiny and has suggested adopting aptitude tests used by the Defense Forces," according to yla.fi.
Teen gunman kills 15 in German shooting spree - CNN.com