7th Grader Opens Fire at School in Serbia, Killing 8 Children
The assailant had two pistols, four Molotov cocktails and detailed plans, the police said. A security guard was also killed.
A seventh-grade student went on a shooting rampage at a school in Belgrade, Serbia, early on Wednesday, killing eight children and a security guard, the Serbian police said.
The shooting took place around 8:40 a.m. at Vladislav Ribnikar primary school, in the upscale neighborhood of Vracar, Veselin Miljic, the chief of the Belgrade police, said at a news conference. The student entered the school with two pistols, one that he had taken from his father’s apartment, and four Molotov cocktails, which he prepared himself.
While his motive was not known, the student had “planned the execution of this criminal offense for a long period of time,” said Mr. Milijic, who shared a list of names that the perpetrator had compiled and a sketch map of the school, where he had charted a path to enter and kill his “primary targets.”
The authorities were alerted to the shooting around 8:40 a.m., when they received a call from the school’s vice principal, Ivanka Jovanovic, who said that a child had “entered the school with a firearm and was shooting randomly,” the police chief said.
Police officials said the student began shooting immediately upon entering the building, killing a security guard and others before making his way down a corridor toward a history classroom, which he had identified as a primary target because it was near the entrance.
He continued to shoot into the classroom from the doorway, before fleeing to the school’s yard, where he called the authorities from his cellphone, declaring that he had shot several people and providing the school’s address, Mr. Miljic said.
The suspect was apprehended in the schoolyard, the police said earlier in a statement. The student’s father was also arrested by authorities hours after the shooting, according to Serbia’s minister of education, Branko Ruzic. Six children and a teacher were injured in the attack and taken to the hospital. A security guard was killed while trying to stop the attack, according to the district’s mayor, Milan Nedeljkovic.
“He wanted to prevent a tragedy, which would have been even greater if he had not stood in front of the boy who shot,” Mr. Nedeljkovic said in an interview with state media outside the school on Wednesday, noting that the school had been closed.
“Something like this has never been recorded in the history of Belgrade schools,” he said, adding that “parents who have guns must secure their firearms.”
Who was hurt?
Serbia’s health minister, Danica Grujicic, said in the news conference that four people, including three students and a teacher, had been admitted to an emergency center after 9 a.m., and were being treated for gunshot wounds.
“This is my scariest experience as a doctor and a person in my 40-year career,” Ms. Grujicic said, adding that two victims, including the teacher and a student, were in critical condition.
The student, around 13, had “life-threatening injuries” to his chest, neck and spine, she said. And the teacher, who was born in 1970, had also suffered injuries to her pelvis and both hands. Another student had been shot in her stomach and arms, according to Dr. Milika Asanin, the director of the Clinical Center of Serbia, where victims were being treated.
Who is the shooter?
Photographs released by news agencies showed the police detaining the student, whose head was covered with a dark piece of clothing. The authorities did not offer any motive for the shooting.
“All police forces are still on the ground working intensively to shed light on all the facts and circumstances that led to this tragedy,” said the police statement, which was posted by Serbia’s ministry of public affairs on Facebook.
“It was terrible. I was downstairs. I heard the gunshots. They were continuous,” said one student, who was visibly shaken, in an interview with state television. “I had no idea what was happening. We were getting information via text messages,” she said, adding that two of her classmates were not responding to messages.
Video broadcast on local TV from the scene of the shooting showed dozens of vehicles, including ambulances and police cars, stationed outside the school, watched by local residents.
Three official days of mourning, starting on May 7, were confirmed by the education minister, Mr. Ruzic, in a televised briefing.
How common is gun violence in Serbia?
Serbia has traditionally had a high level of gun ownership compared with other countries because of its recent history of armed conflict and a cultural and historical tradition of owning a gun, but it does not have high levels of gun violence, according to an October 2022 report by the Flemish Peace Institute, an independent research group.
Most people who own guns in Serbia are men, 94.7 percent, and they are often middle-aged and older, the report said.
From 2015 through 2019, there were 125 people killed in firearm-related homicides in Serbia, according to the report. From 2015 through 2019, five people between the ages of 14 and 17 committed gun homicides in Serbia, according to the institute’s report. In that same period, one person under age 18 was killed in a gun homicide.
There have been several mass shootings in the country in recent years.
In 2016, a man killed five people in northern Serbia after opening fire in a cafe in Zitiste, a village about 45 miles northwest of Belgrade. In 2015, a man shot and killed four people after his son’s wedding, including the gunman’s wife, his new daughter-in-law and her parents.
In 2013, a 60-year-old veteran of the Balkan wars shot and killed 13 people, including relatives and neighbors, in the village of Velika Ivanca near Belgrade. In July 2007, a 38-year-old man fatally shot nine people who had been passing by on a street in the village of Jabukovac in eastern Serbia.