Colorado school officials consider razing site of Columbine massacre

FILE PHOTO: Students arrive for class at Columbine High School before participating in a National School Walkout to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – Public education officials in Colorado are considering a plan to tear down and rebuild Columbine High School, saying the site remains a “source of inspiration” for potential gun violence 20 years after a mass shooting there left 15 people dead.

The idea was floated on Thursday in an open letter from the superintendent of Jefferson County public schools, Jason Glass, to Columbine staff, students, parents and members of the surrounding Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado.

The proposal calls for placing a bond measure seeking $60 million to $70 million on a future ballot to pay for demolition of the existing school and construction of a new school to replace it just west of the current site.

Under the superintendent’s plan, the new campus would still be called Columbine High School, “honoring the pride and spirit the community has with the name,” and its school mascot and colors would remain unchanged.

The county Board of Education and administration are “in the very preliminary and exploratory stages” of discussing such a plan, and are seeking public feedback on the proposal, Glass said.

He cited numerous instances in which actual or would-be perpetrators of violence expressed a fascination with Columbine, including an 18-year-old Florida woman who shot herself to death in April after she sparked an extensive manhunt by traveling to Colorado days before the 20th anniversary of the 1999 massacre.

‘SOURCE OF INSPIRATION’

In 2010, 29-year-old twin sisters from Australia, obsessed with the shooting, traveled to Colorado and shot themselves at a local gun range in a suicide pact. One of the women survived, and police found among their belongings a photocopy of a news magazine cover depicting the Columbine killers and their victims.

The Columbine site, Glass said, “continues to serve as a source of inspiration for potential school shooters, and its lasting impact only seems to be growing.”

Fifteen people were killed in the Columbine rampage, which at the time ranked as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Two high school seniors shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives in the bloodshed on April 20, 1999.

The now-retired principal of Columbine during the massacre, Frank DeAngelis, 64, said Glass had sought his opinion before going public with the demolition idea, and he thought it was a “good plan.”

“Twenty years ago, we never imagined that there would be people so infatuated with this tragedy years later,” DeAngelis said. “Maybe moving the physical plant would alleviate some of the issues.”

Aside from numerous threats and the hoaxes the school has received over the years, curiosity seekers would take pictures of their children in front of the school with the Columbine sign in the background.

“It became a tourist attraction,” he said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker)

Ex-deputy charged for not responding to Florida school shooting remains in jail: judge

Former Broward County sheriff's deputy Scot Peterson appears via video feed from the Broward County jail in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., June 5, 2019. Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The former Florida sheriff’s deputy criminally charged for his lack of response to the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland high school that left 17 dead will remain in jail on $102,000 bond, a bail court judge ordered on Wednesday.

Scot Peterson, 56, was arrested Tuesday on 11 charges of neglect and negligence for remaining outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the attack. He was booked into the Broward County jail.

Peterson, who lives in North Carolina, is the first police officer to be criminally charged for his response to an active shooter situation, his attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, said.

Felony and misdemeanor charges against Peterson include seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.

Peterson was a Broward County deputy on duty as a school resource officer when Nikolas Cruz, 19, allegedly entered the school building on Feb. 14, 2018, and opened fire. At the time, Peterson was the only armed guard on the campus in Parkland, Florida.

Seventeen students and staffers were killed and 17 were wounded.

Cruz, a student who had been expelled from the school, was arrested and is awaiting trial on multiple murder charges.

A lengthy investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found that after hearing gunshots ring out, Peterson, who was trained to immediately confront an active shooter, failed to investigate their source and retreated to take cover, according to his arrest warrant.

“Had this individual done his job, lives would have been saved,” said U.S. Senator Rick Scott, who was governor of Florida when the shooting happened.

Three weeks after the shooting, Scott signed into law a bill imposing a 21-year-old legal age requirement and three-day waiting period on all gun purchases and allowing the arming of some school employees.

Peterson has insisted he responded properly by notifying police and assisting a school lockdown. He told the Washington Post, “It just happened, and I started reacting.”

Peterson resigned a week after the shooting. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said on Tuesday he had fired Peterson and another deputy, Brian Miller, saying they had neglected their duties during the shooting.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

Selfless teen killed in Colorado school shooting loved robotics, helping the elderly

People hold up the phone lights during a moment of silence at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019 as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) speaks. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – Kendrick Ray Castillo, the 18-year-old who sacrificed his life to save other students during a shooting in a suburban Denver high school, loved robotics, helping the elderly in his community and making people laugh, his friend told Reuters.

Cece Bedard, who knew Castillo since elementary school, said she broke down in tears when she heard her friend had died but was not surprised at his selfless act.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he would have done anything he thought he could have to help anyone,” Bedard said on Wednesday.

Two teenagers are accused of opening fire on fellow students on Tuesday at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver, killing Castillo and wounding eight other students.

People listen at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

People listen at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Witnesses said Castillo, who was due to graduate in three days, charged at one of the shooters.

“Kendrick lunged at him,” senior Nui Giasolli told NBC News, referring to the older of the two shooting suspects, Devon Erickson, 18, who was being held on Wednesday on murder and attempted murder charges.

“He shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape,” Giasolli said.

Fellow student, Brendan Bialy, a U.S. Marine recruit who also charged the shooter with a third student, described Castillo as an unstoppable bowling ball.

“Basically when he gets moving there’s no stopping him,” Bialy said in an interview with multiple media outlets, including Denver’s Fox News affiliate, late on Wednesday.

Bialy said his friend showed no hesitation.

Bedard said she and Castillo both volunteered with their fathers at the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s community service organization when they were in middle school.

Castillo loved tagging along with his father to volunteer with the Knights of Columbus, whether it involved carrying heavy crates of fruit for a peach drive or setting up senior lunches. He was especially good at connecting with the elderly people he served, Bedard said.

“He was always there earlier than I was and was always there later than I was,” she said.

His friends remembered Castillo as a goofy jokester, although his humor was never at anyone’s expense, Bedard said. He had a strong sense of self and did not care what other people thought of him, a trait that made him stand out among his peers.

Castillo was also a member of a regional robotics team, another community that was mourning his loss on Wednesday.

“We’re heartbroken by the death of Kendrick Castillo … Kendrick was a member of @Frc4418, of which his father is Lead Mentor,” FIRST, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing youth in STEM, said on Twitter.

Bialy said Castillo was not a victim but someone who jumped into action.

“I love that kid,” Bialy said. “He died a trooper. He got his ticket to Valhalla, and I know he will be with me for the rest of my life.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in NEW YORK; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in ATLANTA; Editing by Frank McGurty, Phil Berlowitz and Paul Tait)

Two students arrested in Colorado school shooting make first appearance

Crime scene tape is seen outside the school following the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Keith Coffman

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (Reuters) – Two teenage students accused of fatally shooting one classmate and wounding eight in a suburban Denver school made separate court appearances on Wednesday, a day after their arrest on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Douglas County District Judge Theresa Slade, who presided over both proceedings, ordered the two suspects to remain held without bond pending their next court hearings, set for Friday, when formal charges are expected to be filed.

The two youths are accused of opening fire with handguns on fellow students on Tuesday in two classrooms at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Denver.

They were arrested by police after several students under fire at the school fought back, including a young U.S. Marine recruit, Brendan Bialy, who survived, and 18-year-old robotics enthusiast Kendrick Ray Castillo, who was killed.

Castillo’s father, John Castillo, told the Denver Fox news affiliate Fox 31, that his son, “gave up his life for others.”

“If he didn’t do it, what would this mess look like?” he said.

Devon Erickson, 18, accused of taking part in a deadly school shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, appears at the Douglas County Courthouse where he faces murder and attempted murder charges, in Castle Rock, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Pool via REUTERS

The first defendant, Devon Erickson, 18, who prosecutors said they were treating as an adult, sat silently at a small table with his head bowed, hands shackled to his waist, flanked by two defense lawyers as a pair of sheriff’s deputies stood just behind them.

Slight of build with longish, unkempt black hair partially dyed bright lavender, Erickson wore an orange-red jail uniform.

His 16-year-old accused accomplice, referred to in court by his lawyer as Alec McKinney, was listed on the court docket by the name Maya Elizabeth McKinney but was addressed by the judge during the hearing as Mr McKinney.

Denver’s ABC television affiliate, citing an unidentified police source, has reported that the younger suspect identified as transgender and had been bullied for it.

Erickson’s hearing was televised live, but the judge closed McKinney’s hearing to cameras. District Attorney George Brauchler said he would decide by Friday whether to charge McKinney as a juvenile or adult.

Dressed in dark blue jail garb with short-cropped brown hair, McKinney said little in court except to answer softly, “No your honor,” when the judge asked the defendant if there were any questions. The judge refused a defense request to unshackle McKinney for the hearing.

No pleas were entered.

ECHOES OF COLUMBINE

The ABC affiliate, Denver 7, said the two pistols used in the attack had been stolen from the home of Erickson. His friends told the Denver Post that he had acted in musical theater and performed as lead singer in several rock bands. According to Denver 7, city law enforcement sources, Erickson’s parents had purchased the guns legally.

Both defendants were being held on suspicion of a single count of first-degree murder and 29 counts of attempted murder, according to court records. Eight students were wounded in the shooting and survived.

The attack occurred less than a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in nearby Littleton, carried out by two students who shot 13 people to death before committing suicide.

Precisely what happened inside the STEM school remained unclear as police searched for a motive in the attack.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock said there was a struggle as officers entered the building, and some students said one victim was shot in the chest as he tried to tackle a shooter.

A man who identified himself as Fernando Montoya said his 17-year-old son, a junior at STEM, was shot three times when one assailant walked into his classroom and opened fire.

“He said a guy pulled a pistol out of a guitar case and started to shoot,” Montoya told the Denver TV station.

The bloodshed shocked the affluent suburb of Highlands Ranch. Parents and students had considered the school a safe place for its 1,850 pupils ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“It still doesn’t seem real to me. It completely came out of nowhere,” Aiden Beatty, a friend of Erickson, told the Denver Post, recounting that he broke down sobbing in his car when he heard Erickson had been arrested in the shooting. “I was really close with him. We were best friends.”

The attack came a week after a gunman opened fire on the Charlotte campus of the University of North Carolina, killing two people and wounding four others.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Castle Rock, Colo.; additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta; writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; editing by Bill Trott, G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)

10 dead, including six kids, in ‘unspeakably brutal’ Brazil school shooting; 17 hurt

Policemen are seen at the Raul Brasil school after a shooting in Suzano, Sao Paulo state, Brazil March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

By Leonardo Benassatto

SUZANO, Brazil (Reuters) – Two armed men wearing face masks entered a Brazilian elementary school Wednesday and shot and killed at least six children who were on their snack breaks, as well as two school officials, before fatally turning their guns on themselves, police said.

Ten people, including the gunmen, were killed in total, Sao Paulo police said.

The unidentified gunmen, who appeared to be between 20 and 25 years of age, shot and killed a worker at a nearby car wash before their attack at the Raul Brasil school, police said. More than 1,000 children aged between 11 and 15 attend classes there.

Another 17 people – mostly school kids – were shot and injured, and several of them were in serious condition, said police, who were not yet aware of a motive for the violence.

Marcelo Salles, commander of police forces in Sao Paulo state, spoke just outside the school and said that in his over three decades of service, he had “never seen anything like this, it was an unspeakably brutal crime.”

Salles said the gunmen used at least one .38 caliber pistol, along with homemade bombs and a crossbow. Police arrived eight minutes after the shooting started and did not confront the gunmen, who had already killed themselves, he said.

A homemade video taken during the shooting and aired by Globo TV showed children screaming, running and begging for their lives as loud shots were heard all around.

Security cameras from homes near the school showed children climbing and jumping over a white wall that surrounds the Raul Brasil building, and sprinting down streets, screaming for help.

School shootings are rare in Brazil, even though the country is one of the world’s most violent, with more annual homicides than any other. The last major school shooting was in 2011, when 12 children were shot dead by a former pupil in Rio de Janeiro.

While gun laws are extremely strict in Brazil, it is not difficult to illegally purchase a weapon.

Police said the two men, who they did not believe were former students at the school, entered the building and started shooting at about 9:30 a.m. local time.

Another shooting took place about 500 meters from the Raul Brasil school shortly before the killings at the school, but it was not yet clear if the two incidents were related.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria said as he stood outside the school that “our solidarity goes out to the families of the victims.”

“I was shocked with the scenes I saw inside that school,” Doria said. “It is the saddest thing I have seen in my life.”

(Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto in Suzano, Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Caroline Mandl in Sao Paulo; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

‘Do something:’ After school shooting, Florida mother chooses action

Lori Alhadeff, a newly elected school board member in the community where her daughter, 14-year-old Alyssa, was killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks during an interview in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Fogarty

By Letitia Stein

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – After screaming out on national television for President Donald Trump to “please do something” to prevent another school shooting like the one that had just killed her daughter, Lori Alhadeff heeded her own call for action.

She was powerless when gunfire silenced 14-year-old Alyssa on Feb. 14, 2018. But in the year since 17 people died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Alhadeff ran for the local school board and won. She started a non-profit. She raised money to equip schools with bulletproof glass and emergency medical stop-the-bleed kits.

On Wednesday, she was in New Jersey, her former home, to watch the governor sign an “Alyssa’s Law” named after her daughter. She hopes other states will follow in requiring schools to have silent panic alarms to notify law enforcement in emergencies.

“I had no control on Feb. 14. And as a mother, when you have your children, you need control,” Alhadeff said in an interview with Reuters. “But now I have the control. I have this power, and I am using that power by using my voice.”

Alhadeff is among the Parkland parents who have channeled their anguish into advocacy. Instead of dance recitals, soccer matches and marching band performances, their schedules now involve lobbying trips to state capitols, the U.S. Congress and the White House.

Some served on a state commission that reviewed the Parkland shooting, documenting each failure before and after the firing of the first bullet in a freshmen classroom building. Others have waded into partisan politics to campaign for local and federal candidates pledging to do more for school safety.

For Fred Guttenberg, fighting for gun control is a way to cope when he thinks about the final moments for his daughter, Jaime, who ran down a hallway with a shooter at her back.

“What I have discovered this year is I have this need to still be Jaime’s dad,” he said. “I am not going to ever stop talking about my daughter and what she meant to me – and what the moments without her mean to me.”

Success can be both satisfying and hollow.

“It doesn’t bring my son back,” said Max Schachter, who has focused on identifying best practices for school security after his son, Alex, died with Alhadeff’s daughter in English class.

Alhadeff, 43, once ordered her life around her children’s soccer teams. She now races between school functions and activities for the non-profit, Make Our Schools Safe, she started after Alyssa’s death.

“I know that she would say to me, if I was like sleeping in bed: ‘Mom what are you doing? Why are you wasting your time? You need to get out there and fight for me,'” Alhadeff said.

MOTHER FOR CHANGE

As a stay-at-home mother of three, Alhadeff jokingly called herself Alyssa’s personal assistant. She drove her daughter to the movies, the beach and sporting events – even laying out her shoes with the laces turned just so for her to slip right on.

While her children were at school, Alhadeff played tennis and grocery shopped. To support their teams, she sold cookies and Gatorade at their soccer games.

Last month, Alhadeff cried while recalling those memories. She was again sitting on the sidelines, watching her second child practice soccer where his sister once played. He wears Alyssa’s No. 8 on his jersey.

It was at an adjacent park that Alhadeff asked a reporter for a microphone following the school shooting, not long after making preliminary plans for her daughter’s funeral.

Angry with raw grief, she begged Trump in a live CNN broadcast to take action because she said he was the most powerful person who came to mind.

Late last year, Alhadeff joined a group of Parkland parents to meet with Trump at the White House and discuss a national safety commission he created after the shooting.

Her anger has eased, she said, as she focuses on school safety as the only new member of the Broward County School Board, where she is calling for the removal of the superintendent in charge when her daughter was killed at school.

“I don’t see myself as a politician,” Alhadeff said. “I see myself as a mother wanting to make change.”

She has planned a full day to mark the one-year date from Alyssa’s death – gravesite prayers, lunch at her house, a clean-up event at Alyssa’s favorite beach and community memorial. Staying busy is better than having too much time to think, she said.

But in quiet moments, when she needs to feel close to Alyssa, Alhadeff dabs on perfume from her daughter’s pink Victoria’s Secret bottle. She wears her daughter’s gray sweatshirt with white splotches, which Alyssa bleached in a laundry mishap.

“I am just trying to live for her,” she said.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)

A year after high school shooting, Florida town still struggling

FILE PHOTO: Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend a memorial following a school shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Thom Baur/File Photo

By Zachary Fagenson

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – Signs that read “Parkland Strong” and “MSD Strong” still dot the well-manicured Florida town where a young gunman carried out the deadliest U.S. high school shooting on Valentines Day in 2018.

But as the Feb. 14 anniversary of the massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland approaches, students, teachers, parents and community leaders continue struggling to cope with the trauma.

FILE PHOTO: Susan Glaser-Cohen (C) mourns while she stands between the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and crosses placed to commemorate the victims of a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Susan Glaser-Cohen (C) mourns while she stands between the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and crosses placed to commemorate the victims of a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

“There’s a lot of community angst, an overwhelming sadness and frustration because not much has changed in a year,” said Angela Burrafato, whose son graduated from the school last year.

Divides persist over where to put blame and how to prevent another tragedy.

Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, criticized for the department’s handling of the shooting, was suspended last month by newly elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and is mounting a legal campaign to reclaim his job.

Some community members also are calling for the removal of Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. 

The state’s Republican-led legislature swiftly passed gun control measures after the shooting, including raising the age requirement and setting a three-day waiting period for gun purchases.

FILE PHOTO: People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

Critics argue the restrictions did not go far enough, while a Republican lawmaker from Florida’s Panhandle region filed a bill last month to roll back some of the measures.

The community will come together, however, at a variety of events to mark the shooting that took the lives of 14 students and three adults.

Therapy dogs will roam the high school’s halls on Feb. 14, and the school day will end early. Students who opt not to attend classes will be excused, while those who come to campus have been encouraged to volunteer for community service projects.

An evening interfaith vigil is planned for the same park where thousands gathered the day after the shooting. Nearby, a California-based artist is erecting a 35-foot-tall, wooden Temple of Time commemorating the victims.

It will be adorned with remembrances of the lives lost and will be razed a few weeks later, similar to the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

Free yoga classes and beach cleanups are being organized. A five-kilometer run honoring slain Stoneman football coach Aaron Feis is planned for Feb. 16.

Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said the anniversary is a painful reminder of all the city suffered, but the volunteerism helps prevent the shooting from defining it, she said.

“We still have people helping each other, and that’s who Parkland was before this, and who it is today,” she said.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)

Putin blames fatal college attack in Crimea on localization

People place flowers and candles at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a recent attack on a local college in the city of Kerch, Crimea October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov

By Mikhail Antonov

KERCH, Crimea (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday blamed a mass shooting at a college in Crimea on localization, saying a problem that began in the United States had spread around the world through online communities on the Internet.

An armed 18-year-old student in the Black Sea port city of Kerch killed 20 people, most of them fellow pupils, and wounded dozens at his college on Wednesday, law enforcement officials said.

The suspected attacker was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after an attack that also saw a bomb set off in the college canteen. A second explosive device was found among the suspect’s personal possessions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a signing ceremony following a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia October 17, 2018. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a signing ceremony following a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia October 17, 2018. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

“By all appearances, this is the result of localization, as strange as that may seem,” Putin said at a forum in the Black Sea city of Sochi.

“Everything started with well-known tragic events in schools in the United States. Young people with unstable minds create false heroes for themselves,” he said.

“This means that we all, not just Russia, but we across the world are reacting badly to changing conditions in the world. We are not creating necessary, interesting and useful content for young people,” he said.

Grieving residents gathered on Thursday in Kerch, laying flowers and lighting candles to mark a three-day official mourning period declared in the region. Orthodox priests sang prayers in the street, leading a memorial service near the college.

“Where were the guards?” a tearful woman at a memorial asked. “Where were the men who were there in large numbers? Why was it children who were shot dead at point blank?”

CYBERSPACE

The death toll, including 18-year-old suspect Vladislav Roslyakov, rose to 21 on Thursday, Russian agencies cited the Russian Health Ministry as saying.

The Russia-backed government in Crimea published a list of the victims, most of whom were teenagers.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, prompting international condemnation and Western sanctions, but since then there have been no major outbreaks of violence on the peninsula.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of the government in Crimea, said it was impossible to conceive that 18-year-old suspect Vladislav Roslyakov had prepared the attack by himself.

“On the ground, he acted alone, that is already known and established, but in my opinion and in the opinion of my colleagues this reprobate could not have carried out the preparations.”

The first deputy head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said the security services needed to have greater control over the Internet.

“For us professionals, it has long been evident that the cyberspace must be under the control of the relevant authorities. Without this, it’s impossible to guarantee the provision of information security and to combat modern terrorist threats in time,” Sergei Smirnov was quoted as saying.

(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov in SOCHI, Russia; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by William Maclean)

Crimea mourns after fatal college attack

People attend a ceremony in memory of victims of a recent attack on a local college in the city of Kerch, Crimea October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov

KERCH, Crimea (Reuters) – Grieving residents laid flowers and lit candles in the Crimean port city of Kerch on Thursday, a day after an armed teenager went on a shooting rampage at his college, killing 20, most of them fellow pupils.

The suspected attacker was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after an attack that saw dozens injured and a bomb set off in the college canteen in the Black Sea region, law enforcement officials said.

Stunned residents gathered on Thursday to mark a three-day official mourning period declared in the region. Orthodox priests sang prayers in the street, leading a memorial service near the college.

“Where were the guards?” a tearful woman at a memorial asked. “Where were the men who were there in large numbers? Why was it children who were shot dead at point blank?”

The death toll, including suspect 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov, rose to 21 on Thursday, Russian agencies cited the Russian Healthy Ministry as saying.

The Investigative Committee said it was still working to establish the motive for the attack that recalled similar shooting sprees carried out by students in U.S. schools.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, prompting international condemnation and Western sanctions, but since then there have been no major outbreaks of violence on the peninsula.

The Russia-backed government in Crimea published a list of the victims, most of whom were teenagers.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Teenager kills 17 in Crimea college shooting: Russian officials

Flowers are seen placed at a memorial by the Kremlin walls to commemorate the victims of a fatal attack on a college in the Crimean port city of Kerch, in Moscow, Russia October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

By Polina Nikolskaya and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) – At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured at a college in the Black Sea region of Crimea on Wednesday when a student went through the building shooting at fellow pupils before killing himself, Russian law enforcement officials said.

Eighteen-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov turned up at the college in the city of Kerch on Wednesday afternoon carrying a firearm and then began shooting, investigators said. His body was later found in the college with what they said were self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

There were no immediate clues as to his motive in mounting such an attack, which recalled similar shooting sprees carried out by students in U.S. schools.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, prompting international condemnation and Western sanctions, but since then there have been no major outbreaks of violence there.

Many of the victims from Wednesday’s attacks were teenage students who suffered shrapnel and bullet wounds.

Pupils and staff described scenes of mayhem as panicked pupils tried to flee the building. They said the attack had started with an explosion, followed by more blasts, and a hail of gunfire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a meeting in the southern Russian resort of Sochi with his Egyptian counterpart, declared a moment’s silence for the victims.

“This is a clearly a crime,” he said. “The motives will be carefully investigated.”

“CHILDREN’S BODIES EVERYWHERE”

The director of the school, Olga Grebennikova, described the scene that she encountered when she entered the college building after the attack.

“There are bodies everywhere, children’s bodies everywhere. It was a real act of terrorism. They burst in five or 10 minutes after I’d left. They blew up everything in the hall, glass was flying,” Grebennikova told Crimean media outlets.

Law enforcement officers gather at the scene of a fatal attack on a college in the port city of Kerch, Crimea October 17, 2018. Ekaterina Kejzo/Courtesy of Kerch.FM/Handout via REUTERS TV

Law enforcement officers gather at the scene of a fatal attack on a college in the port city of Kerch, Crimea October 17, 2018. Ekaterina Kejzo/Courtesy of Kerch.FM/Handout via REUTERS TV

“They then ran about throwing some kind of explosives around, and then ran around the second floor with guns, opened the office doors, and killed anyone they could find.”

Soon after the attack, Russian officials said they were investigating the possibility that it was terrorism. Troops with armored personnel carriers were sent to the scene. Local parents were told to collect their children from the city’s schools and kindergartens for their safety.

However, the Investigative Committee, the state body that investigates major crimes, said later that it was re-classifying the case from terrorism to mass murder.

Officials had previously given the death toll as 18, but the Committee revised that to 17 killed. An employee at Kerch’s hospital said dozens of people were being treated for their injuries in the emergency room and in the operating theater.

Anastasia Yenshina, a 15-year-old student at the college, said she was in a toilet on the ground floor of the building with some friends when she heard the sound of an explosion.

“I came out and there was dust and smoke, I couldn’t understand, I’d been deafened,” she told Reuters. “Everyone started running. I did not know what to do. Then they told us to leave the building through the gymnasium.”

“Everyone ran there… I saw a girl lying there. There was a child who was being helped to walk because he could not move on his own. The wall was covered in blood. Then everyone started to climb over the fence, and we could still hear explosions. Everyone was scared. People were crying.”

Photographs from the scene of the blast showed that the ground floor windows of the two-story building had been blown out, and that debris was lying on the floor outside.

Emergency services teams could be seen in the photographs carrying wounded people from the building on makeshift stretchers and loading them on to buses and ambulances.

A second pupil at the college, who gave his name as Sergei, said he had taken a few steps out of the building into the street when the first blast went off. He was hit by debris from the blast and injured in the leg.

Sergei, 15, told Reuters he ran to another building but said he could hear more explosions going off every few seconds. He took cover and after the attack was over, he was taken to hospital in an ambulance.

“I arrived at the hospital, the scene there was awful. They’re bringing in people all covered in blood, some with arms missing, some with legs missing.”

(Reporting by Moscow newsroom; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones)