Finnish police have confirmed that the shooter in Tuesday's school massacre in western Finland was questioned by police on Monday about YouTube clips showing him firing a handgun but was released because police found they had "no reason" to keep him in custody.
Nine students and one teacher were killed by 22-year-old gunman Matti Saari, a student chef enrolled at a vocational collegein Kauhajoki, a town of 14,000 residents located 180 miles northwest of Helsinki. Saari also wounded an additional female student before shooting himself in the head.
Police spokesman Urpo Lintula said Saari entered the school dressed in black, wearing a ski mask and carrying a large bag that held an automatic weapon, plenty of ammunition and Molotov cocktail-type bombs designed to start fires. Witnesses said the attacker roamed the corridors of Kauhajoki School of Hospitality for more than an hour, stalking students, zeroing in on a class that was taking an examination and setting off explosives that burned some of his victims beyond recognition.
Police arrived at the scene within 10 minutes of receiving the alarm, but by the time they found and attempted to engage Saari, he had already killed multiple students and set them on fire. He fired at police and killed himself before they could return his fire. Identification of the victims has been difficult because the victims were badly burned by the fires Saari started.
The shootings began just before 11 a.m., when about 150 students were at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality. Most of the school's students are 18 to 25 years old. Police report Saari left two handwritten messages at the school dormitory saying he had planned the attack since 2002 and hated the human race.
This school massacre was the second in less than a year in Finland, with both attacks having eerie similarities. Both gunmen posted violent clips on YouTube before the massacres, both were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo. both attacked their own schools and both killed themselves before police were able to reach them.
In one YouTube clip posted by a 22-year-old "Mr. Saari," a young man wearing a leather jacket fires several shots from a handgun in rapid succession at what appears to be a shooting range. The posting was made five days before the shooting.and included a message saying, "Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war."
Saari also posted three other clips of himself firing a handgun in the past three weeks. Clips from the Columbine school shootings in Colorado were listed among his favorite videos. Another clip shown by Scandinavian news media showed the alleged gunman pointing his gun to the camera and saying, "You will die next" before firing four rounds.
On Nov. 7, gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, killed eight people at Jokela High School, north of Helsinki, before taking his own life. In that case, Auvinen had also posted haunting videos of himself on YouTube, in which he called himself a "natural predator." One clip was titled "the Jokela High School Massacre" and showed a gunman pointing a pistol at the camera.
That shooting started a fierce debate about gun laws in the Nordic nation of 5.3 million people, a nation that has deep-rooted hunting traditions.
"There are many of the same factors as a year ago: a lonely young man in the Internet world and then with access to a gun," said Fredrik Almqvist, a professor of child psychiatry at the University of Helsinki.
Almqvist, who has studied school violence, told the media that growing evidence shows the virtual world of the Internet can give some alienated youth a way to build an identity and copycat ideas for violent behavior.
JEMSEditor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman comments:
The school shootings in Finland should alert all public safety professionals to new patterns emerging in school shootings and terrorism. Attacks are now being preceded by bold and obvious statements on sites such as YouTube that should alert law enforcement agencies to intercede before it's too late.
It's also clear that schools are in the sights of those who want to inflict fast, unchallenged carnage on a large easy-to-access population. As readers will see inThe War on Trauma, the supplement to OctoberJEMS, organized terrorist groups have made it clear they plan on carrying out similar attacks on U.S. schools (particularly middle schools where the size of the individuals presents little resistance and threat).
Raw video footage from the scene:
Footage of the scene and students escaping the school: