A man wearing a Darth Vader mask and wielding a sword allegedly attacked a school in Sweden on Thursday, killing a teacher and a student. Two others are in critical condition.
Police in Trollhattan, in southwest Sweden, said they had succeeded in taking the attacker into custody alive after firing two shots during a brief standoff. The suspect reportedly died in the hospital.
The death toll of two makes this the most deadly school attack in Swedish history. In 1961, a gunman shot and killed a student at a school just 35 miles away from the site of Thursday’s incident.
Students at the school said they had thought the masked man was dressed up for Halloween before he started to slash his victims. One student even took a photograph of two teenagers posing with the attacker, thought to be a 21-year-old man, whose face was obscured by the Star Wars mask.
“When we first saw him, we thought it was a joke. He was wearing a mask and black clothes and [carrying] a long sword. Some students wanted to take their picture with him and feel the sword,” one anonymous student told the local news agency TT.
A teenager who survived today’s attack said he tried in vain to warn his teacher that there was a dangerous intruder on school grounds.
“I was in a classroom with my class when one of my classmates’ sisters called her to warn her that there was a murderer at the school. So we locked the door to the classroom, but our teacher was still outside in the corridor,” he told The Local.
“We wanted to warn him, so a few of us went outside and then I saw the murderer, he was wearing a mask and had a sword. Our teacher got stabbed.”
“The murderer started chasing me, I ran into another classroom. If I had not run, I would have been murdered. I’m feeling really scared. Everyone’s scared here.”
Police said it was self-evident from the gruesome wounds suffered by the teacher that he had been killed with a large blade. Another adult and two youths were also found injured at the scene, one reportedly died later at the hospital.
Stefan Benhage, a photographer for local newspaper TTELA, described the aftermath of the attack as “complete chaos,” with students in tears.
A local health official told AFP that another teacher and two boys, aged 11 and 15, were wounded in the assault. It was unclear which of the children later succumbed to his injuries.
“We cannot confirm the second victim's identity yet as the family is in the process of being informed,” a hospital spokesman said.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said it was a “black day” in Swedish history.
“My thoughts go out to the victims and their families, the students and staff, and the whole community that has been affected,” he said. “No words can describe what they are going through right now.”