A 13 year old boy opened fire on his classmates Wednesday in a school in the Serbian capital Belgrade, shaking this Balkan country.
The shooting started at least eight children dead, with a security guard. While Serbia is overflowing with weapons, mass shootings like these are rare.
Here’s what we know.
The horrific events took place at the start of the school day on Wednesday at the Vladislav Ribnikar primary school, a well-known institution in Vračar, an upscale neighborhood of the Serbian capital.
Once he arrived at the school, the suspect “immediately took the gun out of his bag” and shot the school security officer, Belgrade Police Chief Veselin Milić.
“He then went to the member of staff on duty and sat at his desk as if he had done nothing wrong. There was a girl at her desk, another at the piano. He took their lives.
The suspect then walked toward a history classroom, shooting as he walked down the hallway, before entering the room and shooting the teacher and classmates from the door, Milić said .
Parents quickly gathered in front of the school.
“He left the classroom, went out into the schoolyard, took the magazine out of the gun and threw it down the steps.” The suspect called police himself and waited to be arrested in the yard, authorities said.
Seven girls and one boy were killed, Milić said. Six other children and a teacher were hospitalized, according to the Serbian Interior Ministry.
The boy was a student at the school, authorities said.
He had two weapons in his possession, added the Serbian Minister of the Interior during a press conference.
“The relative owned several pieces of weapons and kept them under lock and key. The safe had a code. Obviously, the kid got the code as soon as he managed to get his hands on these two weapons. And three frames filled with 15 balls each,” said Bratislav Gasic.
Furthermore, Milić said that the boy had a 9 mm pistol as well as a small caliber pistol in a bag, as well as four Molotov cocktails.
The suspected shooter was filmed being taken from school in handcuffs, with a jacket over his head and wearing blue skinny jeans.
The prosecutor’s office said the boy’s blood was drawn for toxicology analysis to determine whether he was under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or other psychoactive substances at the time of the shooting.
“All circumstances of this matter, how he obtained the weapon, and the motives for this heinous crime are under investigation,” the statement said.
The suspect’s parents were arrested on Wednesday. Gasic said it was known the father had previously gone to a shooting range with his son.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the suspect had shown no remorse for the shooting.
Oliver Bunic/AFP/Getty Images
The suspect was taken away by the police.
The suspect will not be held criminally responsible because he has not reached the age of 14, the Belgrade Higher Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
The prosecutor’s office said this was in accordance with Serbian law; he added that the boy’s father was ordered to be detained for up to 48 hours because he was “suspected of having committed the criminal offense of serious offenses against general security.”
It is not yet clear what additional measures will be taken against the suspect. Belgrade education union lawyers Aleksandra Bevenja and Vladimir Božić told CNN affiliate N1 that primary school students are not expelled even for a “serious violation” in Serbia.
But N1 said a child can transfer to another school if the new school approves the move.
The shooting shook Serbia and sparked a national debate over the country’s laws.
President Vucic suggested during a press conference on Wednesday that the government should consider lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years.
He justified his suggestion by saying that “children are becoming adults earlier these days” and added that the government should consult respected lawyers and international laws when considering his suggestion.
Vucic added that authorities “doubt this boy knew he would not be prosecuted.”
Vucic also suggested mandatory drug testing in schools every six months and said the government would work to have more police officers in schools.
Education Minister Branko Ruzic said that “the cancerous and pernicious influence of Internet video games on so-called Western values is evident, and it is clear to all of us that a major turnaround is necessary.”
Three days of mourning were declared in Serbia and other European countries offered their condolences.
But the incident also sparked anger. Crowds of protesters gathered in Belgrade and chanted “resign” during a vigil outside the Serbian Ministry of Education on Wednesday evening.
Serbia, a southern European country with a population of nearly 7 million, has more than 2,700,000 firearms in private ownership – a huge ratio, a legacy of years of conflict in the 1990s.
Only 44% of these weapons are officially registered, according to a 2018 analysis by the Small Arms Survey.
This means that there are 39 weapons per 100 Serbs, according to the Geneva Institute of Advanced Studies data project. This is the highest level of civilian gun ownership in Europe and the fifth highest in the world. According to data, more than 1.5 million weapons owned by Serbs are unregistered.
And yet shootings of this type are relatively rare, largely because of the country’s strict gun laws and amnesties granted to owners who surrender or register illegal firearms, according to Reuters.
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