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Finnish police says ‘bullying’ motivated school shooting

Finland observed a day of mourning a day after a boy opened fire at his school in Vantaa
Finland observed a day of mourning a day after a boy opened fire at his school in Vantaa - Copyright AFP Clarens SIFFROY
Finland observed a day of mourning a day after a boy opened fire at his school in Vantaa - Copyright AFP Clarens SIFFROY
Anna KORKMAN

A 12-year-old boy suspected of shooting and killing a classmate and wounding two girls at a school in Finland said he had been motivated by bullying, police said Wednesday.

Flags flew at half-mast as the northern European country observed a day of mourning a day after the boy had opened fire at his school in the Finnish city of Vantaa.

“The motive for the act has been confirmed to be bullying,” police said in a statement.

The suspect said during questioning that “he has been the victim of bullying,” the statement added. “This information has also been confirmed during the preliminary investigation by the police.”

Police also said that the young suspect had only been a student at the Viertola school near Helsinki since the beginning of the year.

During a press conference Wednesday, Vantaa city officials did not wish to comment on whether the school was aware of the bullying.

According to Finnish broadcaster MTV Uutiset, the boy wore a mask and noise-cancelling headphones when he carried out the shooting Tuesday morning.

The child who was killed, a Finnish boy also aged 12, died at the scene, and the suspect had already fled the school by the time police arrived after receiving the report of the shooting shortly after 9:00 am.

– Threatened others –

Police said Wednesday that their investigation had shown that the suspect had threatened other students on their way to school in a northern neighbourhood of the capital Helsinki — which is just south of Vantaa.

“The suspect had threatened them with a gun when leaving the Viertola school after the shooting,” police said.

The police opened an investigation into murder and attempted murder but said the suspect has been handed over to social services as he could not be held in police custody because of his age.

The suspect, who was carrying a gun, was arrested in a “calm manner” within an hour of the shooting.

The revolver-like gun used in the shooting belonged to a close relative of the boy, they said, adding that the matter was being investigated “as a separate firearms offence.”

The school, which has around 90 staff and 800 pupils aged seven to 15, remained open on Wednesday but the pupils had a shorter day than usual, Deputy Mayor of Vantaa Katri Kalske told AFP. 

Kalske said extensive support would be available to pupils and staff during the day, and that the shooting will be discussed in all schools in the city in an “age-appropriate manner”. 

Two injured girls remain in hospital, according to police. 

The children’s hospital where they are treated confirmed on Tuesday they were being treated for “serious injuries,” but said it would not share details on their situation to protect their integrity.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said Tuesday that the incident was “deeply upsetting”, adding that his thoughts were with the victims, their parents, other pupils and teachers. 

“In the coming days, we must be present for the children and young people, offer them words of comfort and show them that we care about them,” he said in a statement.

“They may be scared or have questions. It is important that we talk about the incident in our homes.”

– ‘I don’t understand’ –

Tuula Jouskari, a 70-year-old local resident, told AFP that she felt that parents need to be with and listen to their children.

“We have good education and schools. I don’t understand why that little boy… has such a bad situation,” she said.

Elina Pekkarinen, Finland’s Children’s Rights Ombudsman, told Finnish news agency STT on Tuesday that “for years (we have been repeating) that we need to take violence between children in society seriously”.

Acts of violence, particularly amongst children under 15 years old, have been on the rise for several years, she added.

Police said Wednesday that multiple schools across the country had received threats following the shooting.

Finland has already witnessed several gruesome school attacks in recent decades.

In November 2007, an 18-year-old man opened fire at a secondary school in Jokela, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Helsinki, killing the headmaster and a nurse along with six pupils before turning the gun on himself.

A year later, in September 2008, 22-year-old Matti Juhani Saari killed 11 people at a vocational school in the western town of Kauhajoki. 

In October 2019, a college student, armed with a sabre, killed a 23-year-old woman and wounded nine others at a vocational school in the city of Kuopio. 

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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