Monday, November 12, 2007

Finland Shooting's Columbine Links

The Finland school shooter of November 2007 exhibited several ties to Columbine and other recent school shooters. Hauntingly, the Finland shooting came exactly one calendar month after the school shooting in Cleveland, Ohio, four weeks to the day of another dangerous Wednesday.

The SuccessTech Academy shooting took place on Wednesday, October 10, 2007, at SuccessTech high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The shooter, Asa H. Coon, wounded at least four people, including two teachers and two students; another student was injured fleeing from the school.

The Jokela school shooting occurred on November 7, 2007 at Jokela High School (Finnish: Jokelan koulukeskus), a public secondary school in the town of Jokela, Tuusula municipality, Finland. The gunman was 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

The incident resulted in the deaths of nine people: five male students (ages 16-18) and one female adult student (age 25); the school principal, Helena Kalmi (age 61); the school nurse (age 43); and Auvinen himself, who was also one of the school's students. One other person suffered gunshot wounds, and eleven people were injured by shattering glass while escaping from the school building. The day before the incident, Auvinen posted a video on YouTube predicting the massacre at the school.

This was the second time that a school shooting occurred in Finland. The previous incident occurred in 1989 at the Raumanmeri school in Rauma, when a 14-year-old fatally shot two fellow students.

At approximately 11:44 local time (09:44 UTC) gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen fired his first shot. Most victims were found in the entrance hallway of the school. At 11:44, following the first shot, school principal Helena Kalmi had ordered all students and teachers to barricade themselves in their classrooms. Instead of doing this herself, the principal placed herself in the way of the gunman and tried to compel him to surrender. Watching from their classroom window, they saw Kalmi first fleeing the attacker, but later she went back. She was shot seven times in front of a group of ninth graders (last grade in junior highschool) in the school yard. Later the school nurse, 43, tried to help injured students, but Auvinen shot her too.

The gunman then began walking around the school, knocking and pounding on classroom doors, then firing through the doors and shooting people at random. He shouted orders at some of the students, proclaimed revolution, and urged the students to destroy school property. Witnesses described a scene of mayhem at the school in this lakeside community, saying the shooter prowled the building looking for victims while shouting slogans for “revolution.” He pointed his gun at some people whom he did not shoot. The victims had sustained multiple injuries to the upper body and head.

A police patrol arrived at 11:55, followed later by some hundred police officers, including the Karhuryhmä special operations unit, and even off-duty police officers arrived and surrounded the school. When the police tried to start negotiations the gunman answered by firing a shot at the police at 12:04 local time. No officers were hit.

The attack ended after 40 minutes when Auvinen turned the gun on himself, inflicting an ultimately fatal wound to his head. He was found in a school toilet still alive but unconscious at 13.53 local time. However, the police, as a precaution in case of other gunmen, were not able to secure the building until before 16:00. The police officers did not open fire at any time.

Auvinen was taken to the Töölö Hospital of the Helsinki University Central Hospital at 14:45, but died the same evening at 22:15 from his injuries.


Auvinen had received his licence to own a gun three weeks before the school shootings. He was a registered member of the firing range at the Helsinki Shooting Club. A spokesman for the club revealed that Auvinen had only ever attended a one-hour training session.

The weapon, which has been described by the media as a "small-calibre handgun", was a SIG Mosquito .22 calibre pistol that had been legally obtained and registered to Auvinen on October 19, 2007. He had been given the licence since he was a member of a local shooting club and had no previous criminal record.

In Finland the police usually require a shooting hobby to begin with a .22 calibre weapon. The police cannot mandate that sports shooting should take place in a club, or even in any kind of company; in the case of relatively low risk weapons, the permit decision can be based entirely on information provided by the applicant. Membership in a shooting club is nevertheless considered a risk control. Auvinen himself wanted to buy a more powerful Beretta 9 mm pistol, but the application was rejected by police.

Auvinen described himself as "a cynical existentialist, antihuman humanist, antisocial socialdarwinist[sic], realistic idealist and godlike atheist" on his YouTube user page Sturmgeist89. In the investigation by the police it was confirmed that he had been a victim of school bullying for years.

According to one of his teachers, he was above average academically, and took an interest in history, philosophy and both extreme right and left wing movements.

The Auvinen family lives in Jokela. The family comprises a father, who is a part-time musician, a mother who was a deputy member of the Tuusula municipal council, and an 11 year old brother.

Movies and writings

Pekka-Eric Auvinen uploaded a home-made movie entitled "Jokela High School Massacre - 11/7/2007" to YouTube announcing the "massacre" hours prior to the shooting. KMFDM's "Stray Bullet" was used as background music. Movies of him shooting his new gun had been uploaded weeks prior to the shooting. One video, titled “Jokela High School Massacre,” showed a picture of what appeared to be the Jokela school and two photos of a young man holding a handgun. Electronic music played in the background with a growling voice singing “I am your apocalypse.”

Another video clip showed a young man clad in a dark jacket loading a clip into a handgun and firing several shots at an apple placed on the ground in a wooded area. He smiled and waved to the camera at the end of the clip.

A third clip showed photos of what appeared to be same man posing with a gun and wearing a T-shirt with the text “Humanity is overrated.”

Several hours after the event, YouTube suspended some videos belonging to the username Sturmgeist89 due to relations with the shootings. This may very well be a reference to KMFDM, as Sturm had been a member of the band. Dylan Klebold, and Eric Harris (Columbine's shooters, were also KMFDM fans and Eric wore a KMFDM hat during the shooting) may have idolized by him. His previous YouTube account name was "naturalselector89", which he used from March until it was suspended in October. Many of his videos were about other shootings and violent incidents, including the Columbine High School massacre, the Waco Siege, the Tokyo sarin gas attack, and bombing during the Iraq invasion.

According to his YouTube profile, his interests were natural selection and hate for humanity. This is also reminiscent of Harris and Klebold. He did not want anything or anyone to be blamed for the shooting, and had planned it "in [his] own head".

He left a media package on Rapidshare, a hosting site, explaining his actions and his motives for the shooting. It includes details of the attack, a manifesto, his "loves & hates", some images of himself and a video of him firing a handgun. "I am prepared to fight and die for my cause," read a posting by Sturmgeist. "I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection."

Sturmgeist means "Stormspirit" in German, and was the YouTube username of the Tuusula killer.

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 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.

Several newspapers suggested similarities between and inspirations for Auvinen's actions in the Columbine shootings. Auvinen's YouTube videos included footage related to Columbine. The KMFDM track used in his video, "Stray Bullet", was also used on the website of Columbine shooter Eric Harris.

Criminal investigation

The police found 76 shells and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at the scene. Flammable liquid was found poured on the walls and floors of the second floor, suggesting Auvinen had attempted to set the school on fire. They also found Auvinen's suicide note and have begun analysing his Internet postings.

Spokesman for the cyber crime department of Helsinki police has stated that "it's highly probable that there was some form of contact between Pekka-Eric Auvinen and Dillon Cossey." The 14-year-old Cossey was arrested in October 2007 on suspicion of planning an attack on his school in a suburb of Philadelphia.

Copycat effect

A few copycat incidents occurred in the wake of the Finland shootings.

On November 9, 2007, the Finnish police rushed to three schools due to threats of attacks posted on the Internet. One of the schools was in Tuusula and the others in Kirkkonummi and Maaninka. The 16-year-old boy who posted a video titled "Maaninka massacre" on YouTube was arrested on November 11. The suspect has stated that the video was a joke.

Some three weeks after the Jokela shootings, the Finnish police, flooded with hoax threats, made a public plea for threats against schools to cease. The police reminded prospective perpetrators of severe judicial consequences as well as of the feelings of the families touched by the Jokela events.

In neighbouring Sweden, two boys, aged 16 and 17, allegedly inspired by the school shooting in Finland, were arrested in Stockholm on November 9, 2007, for conspiring to murder their school's principal and janitor. According to the principal, "they had spoken about and glorified Columbine High and what happened in Finland."

The boys, 16 and 17, were arrested in Stockholm after police received information that they were planning murder, Karin Solberg, a police spokeswoman said. One of them was also suspected of making threats.