Russian officials say the gunmen who killed 21 people and wounded 53 more before killing himself at a vocational school in Crimea was an 18 year old student of the school. The shooter, identified as Vladislav Roslyakov, described as a shy loner, also set off an explosive device. He committed suicide in the library after the assault at Kerch Polytechnic College. Officials are still investigating a motive in the attack which is the deadliest instance of school violence in the region since the 2004 Beslan terror attack, which killed 333 people, most of them children.
At first, officials reported a gas explosion at the school but later said an explosive device had ripped through the cafeteria during lunchtime in a suspected terrorist attack. Eventually, the attack was classified as a mass murder attack at the school carried out by one person. The Investigative Committee said the homemade explosive device rigged with shrapnel went off in the school lunchroom and a second explosive device was later found and destroyed.
Guns are tightly restricted in Russia. Civilians can own only hunting rifles and smooth-bore shotguns and must undergo significant background checks. Local officials said Roslyakov had only recently received a permit to own a shotgun which he bought on September 8th. Officials say Roslyakov bought 150 rounds of ammunition at a gun shop on October 13. Just four days later on October 17th, he entered the school grounds at about 11:46 a.m. and began his attack. Several witnesses described the gunman walking up and down the halls at Kerch Polytechnic College and firing randomly at classmates and teachers. He also fired at computer monitors, locked doors and fire extinguishers. A survivor of the attack said the shooting lasted about 15 minutes.
Security footage at the school shows Roslyakov enter the technical college carrying a sports bag and bypassing security. He then entered the school’s lunchroom with a rucksack and leaving without it. The footage captures him going up to the school’s first floor empty-handed just before a fire ball and a massive explosion blows out windows and doors on the ground floor. Roslyakov is then shown walking towards a female teacher in a corridor and gunning her down, before shooting an approaching student. A security camera image carried by Russian media showed Roslyakov, calmly walking down the stairs of the school with the shotgun in his gloved hand while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Hate.”
A video taken by an unknown survivor of the attack shows a terrified group of students and staff running through a hallway as gunshots and screaming can be heard nearby. The group talk in whispers as they search for safety, not knowing where the gunmen is. The video shows them briefly in a classroom and then another hallway. They approach a stairwell and see a body on the stairs below before turning back down the hall and down another stairwell. Terrified, they cautiously look down the stairs before making a run through a doorway and to an outside exit.
If you’re thinking some details in this story sound very familiar you are correct. His outfit resembled that of Eric Harris, one of the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The Columbine attackers also tried but ultimately failed to detonate an explosive device in the cafeteria. Similar to Columbine, Roslyakov also retreated to the school library to commit suicide after the attack. A friend of the shooter said he had an interest in the Columbine school shooting in the US. Also leading to speculation that the massacre was a copycat crime is the fact that some Russian news outlets have reported that Roslyakov belonged to a fan club on social media for the columbine shooters. Russian news outlets have dubbed the shooting the “Russian Columbine,” because of the similarities.