The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a strange and horrible story from Spain, where “a 13-year-old boy armed with a crossbow and knife killed a teacher and wounded four others at his school in Barcelona on Monday before being subdued.” It is the first murder of a teacher at school in Spain in decades.
The attack took place shortly after classes began at the Joan Fuster high school in Barcelona, which the Herald describes as having “about 500 students and 40 teachers” in a “middle class neighborhood.” The attacker had reportedly “spoken of killing all his teachers last week, and had a list of names, but his classmates had dismissed his comments as a joke,” because those who knew him thought he was unlikely to commit a violent act, even though he was fond of military dress and weapons, sometimes attending class in fatigue pants. A fellow student described him to CBS News as “kind of a loner,” and said, “other students would pick on him.”
The exact reasons for the boy’s rampage are not clear, although he might have been prompted by the 16th anniversary of the infamous Columbine High School massacre. The L.A. Times notes that a crossbow attack on a school was depicted in a 2003 novel called We Need to Talk About Kevin and its 2011 film adaptation. Also, police thwarted a 2012 bomb attack on a Spanish university that was timed to coincide with the Columbine anniversary.
A student eyewitness quoted by the New York Post said the attack began when the boy was chastised by the teacher of his first morning class for arriving late; he produced his crossbow and took a shot at her head, then attacked her daughter, who was also a student in the class. Another student quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald said her teacher was attacked in the hallway while investigating screams from the first classroom. The attacker then located a specific classmate he evidently had problems with, stabbing him in the chest with a knife. The UK Times said the attack ended when a teacher talked the teenager into surrendering and then “enveloped him in a hug.”
The slain teacher is said to have been a substitute who was teaching social studies, with only a week on the job, according to the L.A. Times. Police have not specified if the mortal wound was delivered by crossbow or knife (the Times describes the second weapon as a “machete.”) However, the witnesses quoted by the New York Post said the slain teacher had been “shot,” implying the crossbow was the murder weapon.
Two other teachers and two students were wounded. Their injuries are not life-threatening. The second injured student was reportedly stabbed while pleading with the attacker to stop.
The attacker was taken for psychiatric examination and will likely be remanded to the custody of regional child protection services, as children younger than 14 are not held legally responsible for their actions in Spain. His identity is also protected by law. The CBS report says he was muttering “strange and incoherent things” when taken into custody. A source within the Spanish Justice Ministry told the Associated Press he thought the boy would most likely be sent to a mental institution.
Spain already has “crossbow control laws,” according to the L.A. Times: “In Spain, a crossbow is classified in the lowest, safest category of firearms, but a license is still required to buy one. However, some websites on which they are sold do not require customers to submit a scanned copy of that license, only an identification card, Spanish media reported.” The New York Post describes the weapon as a “makeshift” crossbow, so it might not have been purchased from a shop or an Internet dealer.