TUUSULA, Finland (Reuters) - Seven children and a head teacher were killed when a pupil opened fire at a school in southern Finland on Wednesday, hours after he posted a video on YouTube foreshadowing a massacre there.
The 18-year-old, who walked through the corridors of Jokela High School firing into classroom after classroom with a .22-caliber handgun, died later in hospital after shooting himself in the head, his doctor said.
“Five boys, two girls and one adult woman were killed,” police chief Matti Tohkanen told a news conference.
He later identified the woman as the principal of the school in Tuusula municipality, a town of 35,000 some 60 km (40 miles) from Helsinki.
The YouTube video, set to a hard-driving song called “Stray Bullet” by the industrial rock band KMFDM, shows a still photo of a low building that appears to be Jokela High School.
The photo breaks apart to reveal a red-tinted picture of a man pointing a handgun at the camera.
“He (the gunman) was moving systematically through the school hallways, knocking on the doors and shooting through the doors,” said Kim Kiuru, who was teaching a grade 8 class when the shooting began.
“It felt unreal, a pupil I have taught myself was running towards me, screaming, a pistol in his hand.”
He said the gunman had been keenly interested in war history and extremist movements. Police did not identify the student, except to say he came from “a normal family” and had a father, mother and one brother.
The weapon used in the massacre was held legally and the gunman had obtained a permit for it just three weeks ago through a gun club, police said.
The YouTube video, entitled “Jokela High School Massacre - 11/7/2007”, was posted on Tuesday by a user called Sturmgeist89.
“I am prepared to fight and die for my cause,” read a posting by a user of the same name.
“I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.”
“Sturmgeist” means storm spirit in German. Hours after the massacre, the user’s account was suspended.
Lyrics to various KMFDM songs, including “Stray Bullet”, were also posted on a web site maintained by Eric Harris, one of the gunmen in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
KMFDM’s record company, Metropolis Records, said they were “extremely saddened” by news of the shooting.
Jokela High School serves some 500 middle and high school students. “When police arrived there was complete chaos, pupils were jumping out of the building through the windows,” said inspector Timo Leppala.
Outside a church community building near the school, a mother waited as a Red Cross bus pulled up outside and children from the school began to get off. She burst into tears when, through a window, she spotted her child, unharmed.
“This is a peaceful place, nothing like this has happened and nothing like this is to be expected either,” Tuusula mayor Hannu Joensivu said.
Despite Finland having the world’s third-highest per capita gun ownership, violent incidents are rare at Finnish schools. According to Finnish media, there have been four stabbings at schools since 1999. None of these were fatal.
Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told reporters the shooting was an “extremely sad event”.
“This will leave a crack in the society we have been used to and have learned to be secure,” he said.
The last major attack in the country occurred in 2002 when a young man killed including himself and six others in a bomb blast at a shopping mall in Helsinki.
Additional reporting by Sakari Suoninen, Terhi Kinnunen and Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Robert Woodward
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.