Saturday, April 20, 2024

12-year-old opens fire in Finnish school, injuring three

12-year-old opens fire in Finnish school, injuring three
April 2, 2024 Web Desk

HELSINKI, Finland (AFP) - A 12-year-old opened fire Tuesday at a school outside the Finnish capital Helsinki injuring three other children of the same age, police said, adding that the attacker was in custody.

The Viertola school in Vantaa, Finland's fourth largest city, has around 800 pupils and 90 staff. Children in grades one to nine, or aged seven to 15, attend the school. "All those involved in the shooting incident are minors. According to police's current information, there are three injured," a police statement said.

Police specified that both the suspect and the injured were all 12 years old. A witness told the Iltalehti newspaper that shots echoed across the schoolyard. "At first I didn't understand it was a weapon. Then a terrible scream could be heard and children ran across the yard," the witness said.

The city of Vantaa's crisis group was activated following the shooting. Images from the scene showed a large number of police at the school. In an update, police said the suspect, who was carrying a gun, had been arrested in Helsinki in a "calm manner."

Iltalehti published a video filmed from a passing car showing two police officers pinning down a child by the side of a road in a residential area. Parents of pupils told journalists that the shooting had occurred in a classroom.

'Shocking' day 

Police had urged the public to stay away from the area and remain indoors. "Do not open the door to strangers," they said in a statement. Shortly after noon, police had begun letting in parents who were waiting outside the school to see their children,  according to an AFP video reporter at the scene.

Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said in post to X that the day had started in a "shocking way". "I can only imagine the pain and worry that many families are experiencing at the moment," she said. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said he was "deeply shocked", adding that his thoughts were with the victims, their relatives and the other students and staff.

Police did not provide details about the severity of the injuries but announced that a press conference would be held in the afternoon. Finland witnessed two gruesome school shootings in the early 2000s. 

In November 2007, an 18-year-old man opened fire at a secondary school in Jokela, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Helsinki, killing the headmaster and nurse along with six pupils -- before turning the gun on himself. A year later, in September 2008, a shooting took place at a vocational school in western town of Kauhajoki, perpetrated by 22-year-old Matti Juhani Saari, claiming 11 lives.

Since then, hundreds of schools have received shooting threats, according to an article published in the Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention. The article pointed to mental health problems as the main reason behind the phenomenon.