A 21-year-old masked man killed a teacher and a student and stabbed two others during a school attack in Sweden on Thursday.
The man, said to be in his 20s, entered the school in Trollhättan around 10 a.m. He was armed with multiple weapons, including a large knife and possibly a sword. Police shot the suspect after he attempted to attack them; he died at a nearby hospital.
“This is a black day for Sweden,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said, adding, “I want all school children in Sweden to know that I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure you feel safe when you go to school.”
The attack is being treated as a hate crime.
“We can confirm that this was a racially motivated hate crime partially because the man chose his victims based on the colour of their skin,” Police Chief Niclas Hallgren told local media. A police spokesperson added, according to the New York Times, “We can see that he had clothes related to right-wing groups, and we found some other things that pointed in that direction. It is too early to talk of a precise motive. The path to his becoming a killer is a long journey.”
“When we first saw him we thought it was a joke,” a student told Swedish media, according to The Guardian. “He had a mask and black clothes and a long sword.” Some thought he was dressed up as Darth Vader. But after realizing it wasn’t a Halloween prank, students immediately began locking themselves in classrooms. One witness told a reporter that “some students wanted to take their picture with him and feel the sword.” The killer reportedly posed for the photo without saying a single word.
“The murderer started chasing me, I ran into another classroom,” one student told the Local. “If I had not run, I would have been murdered. I’m feeling really scared. Everyone’s scared here.”
The attacks reportedly began in a public café connected to the school. When police arrived on the scene, they found male teacher Lavin Eskandar had been stabbed to death, with two students and another male teacher seriously wounded. The attacker reportedly knocked on several classroom doors and stabbed those who opened them.
“They hover between life and death,” Dr. Lars Spetz said in a press conference after the event.
Fifteen-year-old Ahmed Hassan died after being taken to a hospital. He had moved to Sweden from Somalia three years ago.
Teachers had reportedly been complaining about lax security at the school — especially the fact that the café was open to the public. “Of course schools should be open to society, but not like this, not so anyone can walk in,” the head of the local teachers’ union told The Guardian. Around 400 students attend the school.
According to The Guardian, Trollhättan ”is a city with high unemployment, extreme segregation, and a long history of hate crime – the first mosque to be burnt down in Sweden in the early 1990s was in the city.” Many immigrants attended the school attacked on Thursday.
Law enforcement searched the suspect’s home this afternoon and reported that they found things that were “interesting for the investigation.” The name of the attacker has not been released, and police say they were not aware of him before Thursday’s attack.
This is the first school attack in Sweden since 1961.
This post has been updated throughout.