PARIS • The student who shot his principal and schoolmates at his high school in south-eastern France was fascinated with the 1999 Columbine massacre in the United States.
The 16-year-old son of an ultra- conservative local councillor in Grasse updated his Facebook profile three days ago with a photograph of a skeleton in a long coat, carrying two assault weapons.
The name of the suspect, a minor, has not been disclosed. Armed with a shotgun, handguns, a grenade and possibly a homemade explosive device, he barged into his school on Thursday, shooting his principal, who had tried to intervene.
Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the "heroic" actions of the principal - who rushed towards the student as he pulled out his guns, "to try to reason with him" - appeared to have helped prevent greater bloodshed. "We avoided the worst," she said.
Three students and the principal suffered minor gunshot injuries and another 10 students were treated for shock or injuries from a stampede, according to an updated toll. One person remained in hospital late on Thursday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters: "The first investigations suggest he had consulted videos of mass killings in America."
The youth's YouTube page shows a picture of the Columbine shooting and posts a link to American rapper Ill Bill's song The Anatomy Of A School Shooting. His Facebook page carries violent and morbid pictures, screenshots of a video of the Columbine shooting and a video of a man with a ghoulish mask shooting an unloaded handgun at the audience and then shooting himself in the head.
France's BFM TV station reported that the suspect posted a photo last week of several young people lying in a pool of blood on a Facebook group for his class at the Lycee Alexis de Tocqueville. When his classmates told him it was not funny, he reportedly said it was "just a joke".
A second person was being held yesterday over the shooting, a judicial source said. A brother of a friend of the shooter is in custody, the source said, asking not to be named.
Mr Jean-Rene Laget, a member of the same small right-wing party as the youth's father, told Reuters that as far as he knew, the young man had never caused trouble before.
Grasse prosecutor Fabienne Atzori told reporters that the teenager had difficulties fitting in and had bad relations with some classmates.
She said he initially burst into a classroom armed and looking for specific students. Failing to find them, he left the room, only to be accosted by the principal, who had been alerted to his presence. At that point, he shot the principal in the shoulder, as well as several other students.
"This was a crazy act by a fragile young man fascinated by firearms."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE