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Finland: Child dead and two wounded at school shooting near Helsinki

Police officers at the scene of Viertola comprehensive school, in Vantaa, Finland, Tuesday, April 2, 2024.
Police officers at the scene of Viertola comprehensive school, in Vantaa, Finland, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Copyright Lehtikuva/AP
Copyright Lehtikuva/AP
By Euronews with AP
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The shooting took place at the Viertola school in Vantaa, a suburb of the Finnish capital, where around 800 students and 90 staff attend.

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One student was killed and two others wounded after a 12-year-old opened fire at a secondary school in southern Finland on Tuesday morning, according to police officers. 

The suspect was arrested later that day, they added. 

Heavily armed police cordoned off the Viertola school - a large educational institution including lower and upper secondary schools with a total of about 800 students - in the city of Vantaa, near Helsinki. 

Officers were alerted to the shooting just after 9:00 a.m. local time. 

"The day started in a horrifying way," wrote Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen on X. 

"There has been a shooting incident at the Viertola school in Vantaa. I can only imagine the pain and worry that many families are experiencing at the moment."

"The suspected perpetrator has been caught," he added. 

One of the students died instantly after being shot, Chief of Police Ilkka Koskimäki from the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department told a news conference. 

The other two were seriously wounded, he said.

The weapon used in the shooting was a registered handgun that was licensed to the suspect’s relative, Detective Inspector Kimmo Hyvärinen said.

Authorities asked people in the area to stay away from the school and to remain indoors while not letting in strangers. 

The school, housed in two locations, also includes special education classes.

The suspect was detained in the Helsinki area less than one hour after the shooting with a handgun in his possession, police said. 

He admitted to the shooting in an initial police hearing but there is no immediate word of the motive, police said. 

They added that the case is being investigated as a murder and two attempted murders.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo offered condolences to the families of the victims in postings on X with both saying they were shocked by the shooting.

“What makes it particularly shocking is the age of the victim and the suspect,” Orpo said during a news conference later Tuesday. 

“I can assure you that this will be carefully reviewed and conclusions will be drawn that this will not happen again."

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The minimum age of criminal liability in Finland is 15 years, which means the suspect cannot be formally arrested. 

A suspect younger than 15 can only be heard by the police after which they will be handed over to Finland’s child welfare authorities.

In the past decades, Finland has witnessed two major deadly school shootings.

In November 2007, an 18-year-old student armed with a semi-automatic pistol opened fire at the premises of the Jokela High School in Tuusula, southern Finland, killing nine people. 

He was later found dead with self-inflicted wounds.

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In September 2008, a 22-year-old student shot and killed 10 people with a semi-automatic pistol at a vocational college in Kauhajoki, southwestern Finland, before fatally shooting himself.

In the Nordic nation of 5.6 million, there are more than 1.5 million licensed firearms and about 430,000 license holders, according to the Finnish Interior Ministry. 

Hunting and gun ownership have long traditions in the sparsely-populated northern European country.

Responsibility for granting permits for ordinary firearms rests with local police departments.

Following the school shootings in 2007 and 2008, Finland tightened its gun laws by raising the minimum age for firearms ownership and giving police greater powers to make background checks on individuals applying for a gun license.

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