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Child suspected of killing classmate in Finland says he was harassed

Photo: Roni Rekomaa Lehtikuva via Associated Press People come to pray on Wednesday in front of the Vantaa school, north of the capital, Helsinki.

Anna Korkman – Agence France-Presse in Helsinki

10:17 a.m.

  • Europe

The 12-year-old suspected of fatally shooting a classmate and seriously injuring two others at a school in Finland explained his action by the harassment he says he was a victim of.

During interrogations with police, the suspect said he had been the target of harassment, which was confirmed by the preliminary investigation, police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The young person was transferred at the start of the year to this school in Vantaa, which accommodates 800 students aged 7 to 15 spread across two sites north of the capital Helsinki.

Equipped with a revolver-type firearm belonging to one of his relatives, he opened fire Tuesday morning, killing a boy in his class of the same age as him and seriously injuring two girls — l 'one Finnish citizen and the other with dual Finnish and Kosovar nationality.

As he fled, he then threatened, still with his firearm, students who were going to another school, police said Wednesday.

Listening cell

The boy will not be incarcerated because he is under 15 and cannot be found criminally responsible, but he will be handed over to the country's social services.

In the wake of the attack, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said he was “deeply shocked” by the event, adding that his thoughts were with the victims, their parents, other students and teachers.

“In the coming days, we must be there for children and young people, offer them words of comfort and show them that we care,” he said. “They may be afraid and have questions. It is important that we talk about the incident in our homes.”

A psychological counseling unit for parents and children was set up by the city on Wednesday.

“We are now focusing on supporting” children, Vantaa city deputy mayor Katri Kalske told AFP.

The incident is being discussed with students at all city schools in an “age-appropriate” way. The local church will also provide support to those affected.

Flags on public buildings and institutions were lowered to half-mast for the day in tribute to the victims. The Ministry of the Interior encouraged the entire country to join in mourning.

In front of the school, several people braved the snow to come and leave flowers, candles and stuffed animals and observe a moment of contemplation, according to an AFP journalist on site.

Violence between children

“(Parents) must be with their children and listen […] hear what they say”, reacted to AFP Tuula Jouskari, a 70-year-old resident.

“We have good education and (good) schools. I don’t understand why this little boy […] is in such a bad situation.”

On a global level, it is very unusual for such a young child to be suspected of a crime of this magnitude, explained Elina Pekkarinen, the Children's Rights Defender of Finland, at STT press agency.

“For years, (we have been saying) that we need to take violence between children seriously in society,” she lamented. Acts of violence, particularly among children under 15, have been increasing for several years, according to Ms. Pekkarinen.

The Nordic country experienced similar tragedies in the 2000s.

In November 2007, an 18-year-old man opened fire in a school (middle and high school) in Jokela, about fifty kilometers north of the capital Helsinki, killing eight people: the principal, the nurse and six students. The attacker committed suicide after the attack.

A year later, in September 2008, a shooting took place at a vocational school in Kauhajoki, carried out by 22-year-old Matti Juhani Saari, killing ten people. He also committed suicide shortly after.

And in 2019, a student with a sword broke into a vocational school in the town of Kuopio, killing a 23-year-old woman and injuring nine people.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116