As students at the Lycée Alexis de Tocqueville in Grasse headed back to classes following their lunchtime break on Thursday 16th March, a 16-year-old pupil known only as Killian in the press reportedly opened fire. While rumours quickly circled of a co-ordinated terror attack, it is now being reported by the local prosecutor that the high school pupil acted alone. While several people were injured – four by gun shots and as many as 10 more in the rush to escape the premises - there have been no fatalities and the school opened its gates this morning to welcome in students, teachers and parents.
It has been reported in the press – both local and international – that 16-year-old Killian (who cannot be fully named for legal reasons) was ‘obsessed’ with the Columbine shooting of 1999, which left a dozen dead and many more injured. He is said to have created a music playlist ‘inspired’ by the massacre. He is believed to be the son of a municipal councillor elected in 2014 and representing the Front National – this is yet to be confirmed by local Grasse prosecutor Fabienne Atzori.
When he was apprehended by French police, the teenager is believed to have been in possession of several firearms and grenades. Atzori told the press in a press conference on Thursday that the pupil showed no resistance to police when he was arrested for ‘attempted assasinations’ (tentatives d'assassinats).
Minister for Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem has described the attack as ‘a crazed act by a fragile young man who was fascinated by firearms’.
Those injured by the student’s gunfire reportedly include three other pupils of the school as well as head teacher Hervé Pizzinat. Pizzinat himself has been hailed a ‘hero’ by the local government for his attempts to calm ‘troubled’ pupil Killian despite being injured by a bullet in the attack. According to the Nice Matin, a fellow student who witnessed the reported shooting said, “Even though he’d been hit in the arm with a bullet, he [Pizzinat] continued trying to reason with him...” Another student shared a similar testimony with the local newspaper, saying, “Not many people would have had the same attitude [as Pizzinat]. They would have run away. The principal stayed to protect his pupils.”
In a public comment following the attack, President of the Alpes-Maritimes Eric Ciotti announced that he had asked Minister for Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem to award Pizzinat the Légion d’Honneur for his courage and actions during and after the attack.
Just under half of the students at the Lycée Alexis de Tocqueville returned to the school grounds this morning, although no classes are to be held today. A support centre is to be put in place over the next few days for students, teachers and parents suffering stress and shock following yesterday’s attack.
School and classes are expected to return to normal on Monday.