A bullied teenage outcast fired dozens of times in a rampage at his high school, emptying nearly 20 rounds into some victims before trying to start a fire, Finnish police said Thursday.
Investigators examined a suicide note and hate-filled Internet postings to determine why the killer, identified as 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen, went on the spree and killed people before he fatally shot himself.
Finns mourned the victims of the school massacre, with flags across the Nordic nation flying at half staff. Grieving students placed candles outside the sealed-off high school in the south. The president attended a memorial service for the victims in the capital.
Police said Auvinen left a suicide note, “saying goodbye to his family and a message ... indicating his will against society.” They said he appeared bent on causing maximum bloodshed as he opened fire Wednesday inside Jokela High School in Tuusula, about 30 miles north of Helsinki.
Police said they also seized books and other printed material that suggested Auvinen had “radical thoughts” and was planning an attack, Haapala said.
Investigators believe Auvinen revealed plans for the attack in postings on YouTube in which he urges revolution and grins after taking target practice.
One posting called for a popular uprising against “the enslaving, corrupted and totalitarian regimes” and appeared to anticipate a violent attack.
“I am prepared to fight and die for my cause. I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection,” the posting said.
Victims apparently random
Apparently selecting his victims randomly, Auvinen killed six fellow students, the school nurse and the principal before turning the gun on himself, police said. More than 400 students aged 12-18 were enrolled at the school.
“There’s nothing that links him with the victims except that they attended the same school,” Detective Superintendent Tero Haapala told The Associated Press. “But the explanation can be found mainly in his Web writings and his social behavior.”
Investigators gave a chilling account of the mayhem, which started just before noon and ended two hours later when police found Auvinen in a bathroom near the school cafeteria with a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head. He died at a hospital a few hours later.
Police found 69 shells at the scene, suggesting Auvinen fired at least as many shots. The victims were shot in the head or the upper body — some with only a few shots, others with almost 20 rounds, Haapala told a news conference.
The killer also tried to start a fire. He doused the floor and walls of the school’s second floor in a flammable liquid but failed to ignite it, Haapala said.
Auvinen shot the victims with a .22-caliber Sig Sauer Mosquito pistol, police said, adding that about a dozen other people were injured as they tried to escape from the school.
Police chief Matti Tohkanen said Auvinen, who had no previous criminal record, belonged to a gun club and got a license for the pistol on Oct. 19. Auvinen “was from an ordinary family,” Tohkanen said, and bought the gun days before the attack from a local gun store along with 500 rounds of ammunition.
Witnesses described a grim scene in the leafy lakeside community, in which the assailant scoured the school for victims while shouting “Revolution!”
Church becomes crisis center
On Thursday, grieving students placed candles outside the school, which was still encircled by police tape as forensic experts sought to reconstruct the shooting spree. A day of mourning was declared and memorial services were planned across the country.
In Tuusula, a town of 34,000 people, a church was turned into a crisis center with experts on hand to comfort grieving residents.
Gun ownership is fairly common in Finland by European standards, but deadly shootings are rare. Finnish media reported that a school shooting in 1989 involved a 14-year-old boy who killed two other students apparently for teasing him.
Students said the shooter often wore the same clothes to school — brown leather jacket, black trousers and checkered shirt — and usually carried a briefcase.
Tuomas Hulkkonen, another student, said he knew the gunman well and said the teen had been acting strange lately.
“He withdrew into his shell,” Hulkkonen told Finnish TV broadcaster MTV3.
“I had noticed a change in him just recently, and I thought that perhaps he was a bit depressed, or something,” Hulkkonen said. “But I couldn’t imagine that in reality he would do anything like this.”