The Jokela school shooting occurred on 7 November 2007, at Jokela High School in Jokela, a town in the municipality of Tuusula, Finland. The gunman, 18-year-old student Pekka-Eric Auvinen, entered the school on that morning armed with a semi-automatic pistol. He killed eight people and wounded one person in the toe before shooting himself in the head. Twelve others were also injured by flying shattered glass or sprained ankles. Auvinen died later that evening in a Helsinki hospital.
This was the second school shooting in the history of Finland. The previous incident occurred in 1989 at the Raumanmeri school in Rauma, when a 14-year-old fatally shot two fellow students. Less than one year after the Jokela school massacre, the Kauhajoki school shooting occurred in Kauhajoki, where a gunman shot and killed ten people before killing himself.
At approximately 11:40 (09:40 UTC), Auvinen entered the school’s ground-floor main hallway at Jokela High School, having missed his first lesson. He encountered a student in the corridor and killed him at 11:42, then moved to the lavatories. Soon after, other students found the victim’s body, but assumed he was rendered unconscious from a bump to his head. Other students heard the sound of gunshots, but did not recognise them. At the lavatories, Auvinen fatally shot two more students, prompting the school nurse to call emergency services. After shooting and killing a student outside the lavatory, Auvinen ran after the nurse, caught up to her, and fatally shot her and another student at 11:46.
At 11:47, head teacher Helena Kalmi was alerted to the shooting by the deputy head teacher. She immediately ordered all students and teachers via PA system to barricade themselves inside their classrooms. After this, Auvinen began shouting and firing randomly, discharging his gun a total of 53 times in the corridors. At one point, he encountered the mother of a student as she was entering the school, but spared her. He then attempted to enter a classroom, shooting three times through the barricaded door and hitting a student in the toe. Auvinen then traveled to the school’s second floor and found two students sitting on a bench in the corridor. While one student escaped him uninjured, the other was shot and killed.
Auvinen then began pouring two-stroke engine fuel (a gasoline and oil mixture) on corridor walls and floors, but he was not able to ignite the fuel. He then went to the school canteen on the first floor and tried to enter it, but the sliding glass doors were locked. After demanding to be let in, he fired through the glass, hitting some chairs inside. People hiding in the canteen were able to escape through the other end of the room and hid in the rooms behind the kitchen. No one was hit in the canteen.
At 11:54, Kalmi left the school with the education welfare officer and stopped between the building and a nearby pond to talk on the telephone. The education welfare officer went on ahead to the car park to guide rescue vehicles into the area. Auvinen emerged from the school, cursing, and encountered Kalmi, who tried to convince him to surrender. At 11:57, he shot her seven times in view of a group of students in the schoolyard, fatally wounding her.
Auvinen then reentered the school, went back to the first floor, and began walking around, knocking on classroom doors. He then managed to enter an occupied comprehensive-school classroom. Inside, he shouted orders at some of the students, proclaimed a revolution, and urged the students to destroy school property. Despite firing two shots at a television set and a window, Auvinen left the classroom without shooting anyone.
A few minutes later, Auvinen spotted the first responding police officers and paramedics converging at the area of the inner court. He fired a shot at them through a window, but the bullet failed to penetrate the glass. At 12:04, he took another position near the main entrance and fired two more shots at police officers who tried to approach and negotiate with him. No officers were hit. Soon afterward, Auvinen walked into the corridor next to the canteen and shot himself in the head, ending the shooting.
He was found and taken to the Töölö Hospital of the Helsinki University Central Hospital at 14:45, where he died at 22:15 from the gunshot wound. The victims all sustained multiple injuries to the upper body and head.
The first emergency services call was reported at 11:43:14 by a student, though it was initially reported that the victim in question was bleeding from a bump to his head. The operator alerted two ambulances at 11:44:11. During the alert, gunshots were heard in the background, but the operator either did not hear them or was unable to identify them. The caller then tried to inform the operator that there was someone with a gun, but he was in a state of panic at the time and the operator couldn’t understand the situation. At 11:46, it was finally determined a shooter was involved, and the incident was reclassified as a shooting.
Police patrols were alerted, and the first officers arrived at the scene at 11:55 to begin evacuating students and staff from the building. Ambulances also arrived at around the same time. In addition to officers from the local police department, officers from the Central Uusimaa, Hyvinkää, and Vantaa police departments, along with officers from a special readiness unit, were involved in the police response. A total of twelve ambulance units, along with two rescue units and a medical helicopter, were involved in the medical response.
Despite reports of only one gunman, the police realised the information was not definite and considered the possibility of multiple assailants. They converged on the inner court, where they believed three or four victims were located according to information given by students, but found no bodies there. Meanwhile, a patrol blockading the pool beside the school building found Kalmi, alive but badly wounded. Basic life support was initiated on her, but despite these efforts, she died of her injuries at the scene.
By the time between 12:35 and 12:37, an estimated 200 students and staff were evacuated from the school and relocated to a nearby centre. Readiness unit officers entered the school, and by 13:38, they found six of the victims, four in the hallway and the other two on a corridor stairway. At 13:54, they found Auvinen’s body next to a men’s lavatory near the canteen. Signs of life were detected on his person and he was moved out of the building to receive first-aid. At 13:58, the officers found the last victim on the school’s second floor. They believed he was still alive and moved him out of the school to receive first-aid, but a doctor then found that the victim was already dead by the time he was found.
By 14:29, the school was cleared, and no additional gunmen were found. A second inspection of the building was initiated for final confirmation, and the last students were evacuated by 15:17. The second inspection was completed at 15:40.
Pekka-Eric Auvinen (4 June 1989 – 7 November 2007), an 18-year-old student at Jokela High School, was born in Tuusula, Finland. Between December 2006 and January 2007, Auvinen’s parents tried to get him referred to a psychiatric outpatient clinic, but the offer was refused, as his symptoms were deemed mild. It was recommended that before a resort to hospitalisation, efforts to use antidepressant medication would be taken first. Auvinen had irregularly taken SSRI-antidepressants one year prior to his death. Auvinen was frequently bullied at school, and school students reported changes in his behavior to a youth worker, saying he acted threateningly and remarked that they would die in “a white revolution”. One of his teachers described him as a militant radical who was interested in both far-right and far-left movements. Auvinen had apparently been planning the shooting since at least early March.
Auvinen had a number of online accounts, including a YouTube account he used to upload videos about school shootings and violent incidents, including the Columbine High School massacre, the Waco siege, the Tokyo subway sarin attack, and bombing during the Iraq invasion. Several months before the shooting, YouTube vlogger “TheAmazingAtheist” called for authorities to investigate accounts with content on school shootings, including one used by Auvinen.
Auvinen uploaded a homemade video to YouTube prior to the shooting, declaring that he would carry out a “massacre”, and uploaded a manifesto to a file sharing website. His manifesto expressed anger at his social alienation and called on “strong-minded and intelligent individuals” to revolt against the “idiocracy” of the “weak-minded masses”.
Auvinen had received his gun licence in October, then purchased a SIG Mosquito .22-calibre and 500 rounds of ammunition on 2 November, five days before the shooting. He was a registered member of the Helsinki Shooting Club since 31 August. A club spokesman revealed that Auvinen had attended a single one-hour training session. He had been given the licence since he was a member of a local shooting club and held no previous criminal record.
The Finnish police usually require a shooting hobby to begin with a .22-calibre weapon. The police cannot mandate that sports shooting take place in a club, or even in any kind of company; in the case of relatively low-risk weapons, the permit decision may be based entirely on information provided by the applicant. Membership in a shooting club is nevertheless considered a risk control. Auvinen initially wanted to purchase a 9mm Beretta pistol, but the application was rejected by police on 12 October under the grounds that, due to its high firepower, the firearm was not suited for precision shooting, as Auvinen had hoped to use it for. He later successfully filed an application to purchase a Ruger MK III .22-calibre pistol, only to find on the day of the purchase that it was unavailable at the time. He then opted to purchase the SIG Mosquito instead.
The police found a total of 75 shells and 327 unused rounds of ammunition at the scene. Flammable liquid was found poured on the walls and floors of the second floor, suggesting that Auvinen had attempted to set the school on fire. They also found Auvinen’s suicide note and began analysing his Internet postings.
A 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, a 14-year-old boy arrested in October on suspicion of planning an attack on his school in a suburb of Philadelphia.
A 2,000-page police report into the shooting was released in April 2008.
Flags were flown at half-staff on Thursday 8 November 2007 throughout the country by officials and private entities alike and the Finnish government held a moment of silence while in session. The Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen sent “his government’s heartfelt condolences”, strongly noting the need of the media, the parents and the schools to discuss the incident in correct light. The Finnish National Board of Education immediately posted directions for the teachers and principals on how to discuss the shootings with pupils, along with shorter instructions for parents. President Tarja Halonen sent her condolences as well. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has opened a crisis centre, situated in the Church of Jokela, in which professional help is administered to those afflicted by the tragedy. A number of groups appeared on IRC-Gallery and Facebook to grieve or commemorate the victims.
The Lutheran Archbishop Jukka Paarma of Turku, the Orthodox Archbishop Leo of Karelia, the Catholic Bishop Józef Wróbel of Helsinki and other church authorities have expressed their condolences to the relatives and loved ones of those who died in the massacre. Throughout the country, church buildings have been open for anyone seeking pastoral care; the incident has also been a major topic in religious services, many of which have been specifically held because of the incident.
On 9 November 2007, the Finnish government decided to drop objections to the European Union directive on firearms. This will likely mandate a common European minimum age limit of 18 years for gun ownership. After the decision was announced, interior minister Anne Holmlund commented through her aide that it wasn’t a direct consequence of the shootings, as the directive had been prepared for a long time and “wouldn’t have prevented the events anyway.”
On 13 November 2007, the Finnish Government announced that it would set up a “Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Jokela school shooting and events that bear relevance to the incident”. The investigation report was released in February 2009.
According to the Finnish Ministry of Justice, a legislative process aimed at establishing an enabling Act covering the Terms of an official Investigative Commission would be finalised by the end of March 2008. The plan is to have a Final Report, covering the Jokela school shooting incident, finalised in one year.
International governments and organisations
Estonia: President Toomas Hendrik Ilves sent a message of condolences on behalf of the Estonian people to President Halonen, saying he had been shocked and saddened by the news.
Iceland: President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson sent a message of condolences on behalf of the Icelandic people to Finnish President Tarja Halonen. “On the behalf of me and the Icelandic people, I wish to express our condolences to the Finnish people for the tragic event in Tuusula earlier today.
Ireland: President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and a number of Irish schoolchildren expressed their condolences to Finnish President Tarja Halonen on 12 November during Halonen’s state visit to the country.
Norway: King Harald V sent a message of condolences to Finnish President Tarja Halonen. “It is with deep sorrow that I have received the news of the tragic of the Jokela secondary school in Tusby yesterday, which resulted in such a meaningless loss of lives. I send you my heartfelt condolences and my sincerest sympathies to all the bereaved and the Finnish people.”
Sweden: King Carl XVI Gustaf expressed his condolences and described the shooting as a horrific affair. “Unfortunately this sort of thing is spreading around the world. That is odd,” the king added at a news conference in Luleå. The Swedish TV-channel SVT 2 would also show the movie Elephant the day after the massacre, but they took it off the schedule in respect to Finland. Instead, the movie Swimming Pool was shown.
European Union: President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso said in a message to the Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen that he had been “shocked and profoundly saddened to learn about the horrific campus murders.”
On 9 November 2007, the Finnish police rushed to three schools due to threats of attacks posted on the Internet. One of the schools was Hyrylä high school 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.
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.
The Kauhajoki school shooting occurred on 23 September 2008, at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences in Kauhajoki, a city in Western Finland. The gunman, 22-year-old culinary arts student Matti Juhani Saari, shot and fatally injured ten people with a semi-automatic pistol, before shooting himself in the head. He died a few hours later in Tampere University Hospital. Finnish police first stated that Saari “very likely” knew Pekka-Eric Auvinen, but in the final investigation no proof of that was found.
In neighbouring Sweden, two boys, aged 16 and 17, were arrested in Stockholm 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.”