MOSCOW — A 10th-grade student armed with two rifles burst into his Moscow school today and killed his geography teacher and a policeman before being taken into custody, investigators said. The boy’s father played a key role in helping to free students being held as hostages and prevent further violence, the city police chief said.
None of the children in School No. 263 at the time were hurt, said Karina Sabitova, a police spokeswoman at the scene. Some ran from the building with their teachers without stopping to put on their coats even though the temperature was below freezing. The school in northeast Moscow is for children in grades one through 11, as is typical in Russia.
The student gunman also seriously wounded a second police officer who had responded to an alarm from the school, investigators said.
Such shootings in Russian schools are extremely rare. Any attack on a school, however, unavoidably brings back memories of the Beslan school siege in 2004, when Islamic militants from Russia’s North Caucasus took about 1,000 people hostage, most of them children. More than 300 hostages were killed when Russian security forces stormed the school.
Russia is on alert for terrorist attacks, especially after Islamic militants asserted responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd in December and threatened to strike during the Sochi Winter Olympics, which begin Friday in the Black Sea resort. Today's attack, however, has raised no suspicions of any link to terrorism.
The armed teenager entered the school after threatening the security guard, who managed to hit an alarm before following the student to his classroom, the spokesman for Russia’s main investigative agency said.
“Without saying a word, he fired several shots at the geography teacher,” said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee.
He identified the teacher as Andrei Kirillov, aged 29 or 30, correcting an earlier statement that a 76-year-old teacher with the same last name had been killed.
Markin said the student fired at least 11 times from a small-caliber rifle, also killing a police officer and wounding a second. He said investigators were questioning the student, his classmates, school staff and the security guard to try to determine what had motivated him. The boy, who would be about 16, was an excellent student, the spokesman said. It was not immediately clear whether the security guard had been armed.
In addition to the small-caliber rifle, the student was also carrying a carbine, a short-barreled rifle, Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin said in televised remarks. Both rifles belonged to his father and were legally registered, he said. Ownership of hunting rifles is legal in Russia if they are properly registered.
The father was immediately called to the school and spoke to his son on the phone for 15 minutes to try to persuade him to allow the 20 or so students in the classroom to leave, but the boy refused, the police chief said. The father, wearing a bullet-proof vest provided by police, then went into the classroom. About 30 minutes later the students walked out, leaving the father and son alone in the classroom, and police special forces stormed in, Yakunin said.