Four wounded as student opens fire at school in southern France

Teenage gunman obsessed by Columbine massacre in US but has ‘no link’ to terrorism

A 16-year-old student who was obsessed by the Columbine massacre in the United States opened fire on his school principal and fellow students in the southern French town of Grasse on Thursday morning.

Four people, including the principal, were hospitalised with gunshot wounds. Five others were injured in a stampede sparked by the shooting. No lives are in danger.

Prosecutor Fabienne Atzori said the young man entered the school at 12.55pm carrying a shotgun, ammunition, several handguns and a training grenade.

“He may have had a home-made explosive device, but that needs verification,” she said. “First he entered a classroom. The person or people he was looking for were not there. Students went to the principal, who decided to intervene. Before the principal arrived, the young man had wounded a student.”


Police arrested the attacker at 1.05pm. Atzori said the attack “appears to have been linked to his poor relations with other students. It appears he had difficulty integrating. No link to a terrorist undertaking has been established.”

Son of a town councillor

French media identified the attacker by the first name Killian, and reported he was the son of a town councillor who is in the military.

Jérôme Viaud, the mayor of Grasse, confirmed that he knew the family.

“This is a very difficult moment for the town of Grasse, a moment that shocks and wounds the population,” Viaud said.

The French education minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, described the shooting as “the mad act of a fragile young man”. A massacre was narrowly avoided, she added, praising the “heroic” principal who prevented carnage by attempting to calm the shooter. The principal was shot in the arm.

The attacker had left morbid messages and references to satanic rituals on social media. In a Facebook posting last November, he wore a gas mask and a clown mask, and held what appeared to be a fake gun. One of his contacts commented, "Hell, Killian, you always put gore stuff. lol".

In his profile, posted on February 11th, the youth included a photograph of two US high-school seniors who murdered 12 students and a teacher at Columbine high school in Colorado in 1999. He also drew up a playlist on YouTube that included videos which allude to the massacre. He wrote "The one who will make history with your blood" on the same page.

Other violence

In other violence, an executive secretary was burned on the hands and face by a letter bomb at the European office of the International Monetary Fund in Paris. The package bore Greek stamps and investigators said they suspected Greek anarchists were responsible.

President François Hollande said the shootings and the letter bomb, which he called a terrorist attack, justified continuing the state of emergency until its expiry on July 15th.

Justice minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas had said on Wednesday that conditions made it possible to lift the state of emergency that was decreed by Hollande on November 13th, 2015, when 130 people were murdered by jihadists in Paris. Hollande has renewed the decree each time it expired.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor