Pekka-Eric Auvinen

On November 7, 2007, in Tuusula, Finland, a city about 30 miles from the country’s capital, a school shooting took place at Jokela High School. Pekka-Eric Auvinen, age 18 and a student of the school, killed 6 students, the school nurse, and the principal, and injured at least 10 others; he then killed himself.

Auvinen was described by others as a loner who had suffered from bullying. He described himself as an outcast on his YouTube profile. However, his friends saw him as a normal student who was pretty happy. Auvinen had been on antidepressant medications since the age of 17. The drugs he was taking, however, have been known to cause thoughts of suicide in young adults. Friends said that Auvinen had been changing before the shooting, and they had been seeing a different side to him. When a friend expressed concern to him about his change in behavior, Auvinen claimed he was only joking about comments he would make and drawings of massacres. The friend did not think he would actually do anything.

Auvinen was a member of the Helsinki Shooting Club, which recommended that he get a more powerful gun than the one he owned. His application for the weapon was turned down, however, because it was felt to be too strong of a gun for his goal, which he stated was target practice. Auvinen used a .22 caliber pistol during the Jokela school shooting, which he named Catherine. He had no previous record and had no previous incidents at school, unlike some other school shooters.

Auvinen was called “the YouTube Killer,” after it was discovered that he had posted approximately 90 videos on the website that were admiring of notorious killers, including Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine High School), Hitler and other Nazis, Jack the Ripper, Stalin, Timothy McVeigh, and Jeffrey Dahmer. He also included images of the burning of a cult’s compound in Waco, Texas, and other attacks. His user name on YouTube was Sturmgeist89; the word sturmgeist in German means “storm spirit.” Auvinen changed his user name to this one after his last choice, NaturalSelector89, was taken down by YouTube. One video he posted imitated a video made by Harris and Klebold, the school shooters at Columbine High School.

The most serious video Auvinen posted was titled “Jokela High School Massacre 11/7/07,” which chronicled his plans before he carried out the shooting. In the video, he was shown holding a gun as he claimed that he was a social Darwinist and stated that he would weed out the weak people in society. Auvinen kept saying that he was willing to die for what he believed in, which was changing what he felt to be a messed-up society. In his video foreshadowing what was to come, he also told viewers not to blame anyone except him for what would happen. He said it was not video games, movies, his parents, or anything else that caused him to do what he would do, but instead his own beliefs. He basically said it was him against the world. “Jokela High School Massacre” was the last video Auvinen posted before the shooting. A suicide note written by Auvinen was found after the shooting. In it, he discussed how he hated society and gave his goodbyes to his family.

Many have discussed similarities between this shooting and the one in Columbine High School in the United States. As previously mentioned, Auvinen included Columbine imagery in his YouTube videos. He also used some of the same music in his YouTube postings that Eric Harris, one of the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre, used on his internet. Another similarity was that Auvinen played the video game Doom, which many believe played a large part in motivating the Columbine shootings. Also, all three of these shooters– Auvinen, Harris, and Klebold–had been bullied.

On the day of the shooting, Auvinen killed the headmistress, a nurse, and six students, including five males and one female. Everyone who died that day was shot more than once, some as many as 20 times. According to police, this behavior indicates that Auvinen thought about each shooting, instead of shooting wildly. Also, he targeted his victims’ heads and chests. Police said those killed did not move after they were shot, which indicated how deadly even the first shots were. According to officials, the victims most likely could not have been helped even if emergency services came right away, owing to the serious nature of their injuries. Many more students were injured. Although police believe Auvinen was not targeting any students specifically, he did shoot some and chose not to shoot others.

The principal, Helena Kalmi, was killed in an execution-style murder. At first, she ran away from Auvinen, but then for unknown reasons–possibly attempting to stop him–she went back to him. At that point, Auvinen forced her to her knees and shot her seven times, while a number of ninth graders in a classroom watched through the window. Police investigators did not believe the principal was a primary target for Auvinen, although they discovered a disagreement between the two had occurred before the shooting occurred. Auvinen then shot the nurse, who was trying to assist injured students.

In keeping with Auvinen’s YouTube profile and videos of changing society, it appeared that Auvinen was trying to start a student revolution during the shooting, as he tried to persuade the other students to destroy the school. However, no students joined him. While he was yelling at them to join him, Auvinen was roaming the school randomly shooting his gun.

The shooting started around 11:40 a.m., and the police were called 3 minutes later. The police came 11 minutes after they were called, although they did not actually go into the school until 3 hours later. By 12:30 p.m., there were approximately 100 police officers surrounding the building. Auvinen used 69 out of the roughly 400 bullets he brought with him. He also tried to set a fire in the school, although it did not work. When police arrived and tried to force him to surrender, he responded by shooting at them. Sometime during this period and in the midst of the commotion caused by students jumping out of windows and trying to escape the shooting, Auvinen shot himself in the head. He did not die at the scene, but rather succumbed to his injury later at the hospital. Sources differ on the length of the shooting incident, citing times varying between 20 and 40 minutes. After Auvinen was found injured, the police continued to scour the building, making sure there were no other shooters.

In the wake of this shooting, Finland considered changing its school security measures. The Finnish government also began considering passing stricter gun laws, as the country has the third highest gun ownership rate among civilians in the world. However, one suggested change–raising the minimum age for gun ownership to 18–would not have made a difference in this incident. The Jokela shooting was very shocking to the Finnish population, although it has a strong tradition of supporting gun ownership. According to a number of sources, school shootings are not very common in Finland. In fact, the shooting by Pekka-Eric Auvinen was only the second school shooting in Finland’s history. The only other incident occurred in 1989, when a 14-year-old shot two students at his school. However, there had been other public shootings in Finland, just not in schools. For example, in 1994, a 22-year-old shot 3 people while he was on army leave. In 2002, a 19-year-old killed 7 people and injured 115 with a bomb in a shopping center.

On September 23, 2008, a year after Auvinen’s shooting, another school shooting occurred in Kauhajoki, Finland. Ten people were shot and killed by Matti Juhani Saari, who then killed himself. Finnish officials believe Saari knew Auvinen.

Finnish police had to deal with many threats to schools after Auvinen’s shooting, which they believe involved people copying that incident. Only two days after the Jokela shooting, threats were made against three different schools on the Internet. One of these was in Tuusula, just like the Jokela shooting; the others were in Maaninka and Kirkkonummi. Three weeks after Auvinen’s shooting, the police made a public statement urging people to stop making threats against schools.

After the shooting, people also threatened Auvinen’s parents; the police gave them protection. The Jokela school shooting was a case in which there was no one to prosecute, as Auvinen killed himself.

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References:

  1. Lieberman, J., & Sachs, B. (2008). School shootings. New York: Kensington.
  2. Man kills eight at Finnish school. (2007). BBC. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7082795.stm
  3. School massacre: Ninth graders saw killing of school principal. (2007). Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved from http://www.hs.fi/english/article/School+massacre+Ninth+graders+saw+killing+of+school+principal+/1135231685357
  4. School shootings rare in Finland. (2007). YLE. Retrieved from http://yle.fi/uutiset/school_shootings_rare_in_finland/5808607