Serbia school shooting a call for 'radical measures' to prevent violence, says Belgrade archbishop

People react as they pay tribute to victims following a school mass shooting where a boy opened fire on others, killing fellow students and staff, in Belgrade, Serbia May 4, 2023. (OSV News photo/Reuters, Zorana Jevtic)

(OSV News) ─ Archbishop Ladislav Nemet of Belgrade, Serbia, told OSV News that "no child should be a victim of violence," following a school shooting in that city that left eight children and one security guard dead, with six students and a teacher injured.

On May 3, a 13-year-old male student at the Vladislav Ribnikar Elementary School opened fire on his classmates, armed with two guns owned by his father, as well as two pistols and four Molotov cocktails that were later found in his bag.

The shooter, Kosta Kecmanovic, called police after the attack, telling them what he had done and saying "he is a psychopath who needs to calm down," senior police official Veselin Milic told media the day of the shooting, adding that Kecmanovic said he "was caught by fear and panic and funny breathing" following the killings.

Authorities also discovered sketches of classrooms and a list of intended targets Kecmanovic had created prior to the attack.

All but one of the dead were girls, one of whom held French citizenship, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told media, without providing details.

Kecmanovic, who is too young to be criminally charged under Serbia's legal code, will be placed in a psychiatric institution, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told media. He described the day as "one of the toughest … in Serbia's modern history."

The teen's father has been arrested, along with Kecmanovic's mother.

Serbia will observe a three-day period of mourning beginning May 5, authorities said.

No motive has been provided for the attack, which has stunned a nation with high levels of gun ownership -- 39 per 100 persons, according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey research firm -- but few mass shootings. The last such attacks occurred in two separate villages in 2013 and 2007.

Thousands gathered outside the elementary school to leave flowers, candles, teddy bears and other tokens in honor of the victims. The majority of mourners were reported to be students from other Belgrade schools.

Children and teens should experience school as "a safe and stimulating place for learning and development," said Archbishop Nemet in a May 4 email to OSV News.

The tragedy "calls us all to the importance of radical measures in the prevention of violence in schools and among children," he said.

Masses throughout the archdiocese were offered for the victims, the archbishop added.

"May the Lord grant peace to the innocent souls, murdered students and security workers in the hope of a blessed resurrection, and to all families, relatives and friends, strength and comfort in these difficult times," he said.
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Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.


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