Young Finnish school shooter ‘was bullied’

Young Finnish school shooter ‘was bullied’

12-year-old used relative's revolver to kill classmate and wound two others seriously

Candles and flowers are placed on a square in front of the Viertola School in Vantaa on Wednesday to pay tribute to victims of a shooting at the school north of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. (Photo: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via Reuters)
Candles and flowers are placed on a square in front of the Viertola School in Vantaa on Wednesday to pay tribute to victims of a shooting at the school north of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. (Photo: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via Reuters)

HELSINKI - The 12-year-old boy who shot and killed a fellow sixth-grader and severely injured two others at a school in Finland has explained that he was a target of bullying, and this was the motive for his attack, police said on Wednesday.

The boy on Tuesday brought a relative’s revolver to the Viertola school near Helsinki and shot the three 12-year-olds and threatened several others. He had transferred to the school at the beginning of 2024, investigators said.

The government asked Finns to join in a day of mourning on Wednesday and ordered that flags on public buildings be flown at half-mast in a symbol of respect for the dead child. The two other pupils remained in hospital.

“We just found out today that there was this bullying behind the tragedy,” lead investigator Detective Chief Inspector Marko Sarkka told Reuters.

The preliminary police investigation had confirmed that the boy was a target of bullying, investigators said in a separate statement. Sarkka declined to elaborate.

Police have not said whether the attacker sought to target any specific individuals.

Finland has seen a rising level of bullying in schools, with 8.6% of pupils who are now around 12 years old saying they had been targeted at least once a week, up from 7.2% in 2019, according to a 2023 study by the public health institute THL.

The permit for the revolver used in Wednesday’s attack belonged to a relative of the suspect, according to police. It was not immediately clear how the shooter had obtained the weapon.

“This matter is being investigated by the police as a separate firearms offence,” investigators said in a statement.

The two other Viertola school students hurt in the attack sustained life-threatening injuries, police said on Wednesday.

Anxious wait

After word spread of the shooting on Tuesday morning, anxious parents waited for hours outside the school as teachers kept classroom doors shut to protect their pupils while police officers searched the premises.

The suspect was eventually apprehended some four kilometres away while still in possession of a gun.

There were no other suspects, police said. They did not identify the alleged shooter or victims, apart from saying they were all 12-year-old pupils at the school and that the suspect was a boy.

One of the injured children was a girl from Kosovo, the Kosovo foreign ministry said in a post on Facebook.

Following deadly school shootings in 2007 and 2008, Finland tightened its gun legislation in 2010 and introduced an aptitude test for all firearms licence applicants. The minimum age for applicants was also raised to 20 from 18.

There are more than 1.5 million licensed firearms and about 430,000 licence holders in the country of 5.6 million people, where hunting and target shooting are popular.

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