Teenage Boy Kills 9 in Serbia School Shooting

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
May 3, 2023Europe
Teenage Boy Kills 9 in Serbia School Shooting
Police officers secure the area after a 14-year-old boy opened fire on other students and security guards at a school in downtown Belgrade, Serbia, May 3, 2023. (Djordje Kojadinovic/Reuters)

A 13-year-old boy opened fire Wednesday in a school in Belgrade, killing nine and injuring seven in a pre-planned attack, the Serbian government said.

The shooter, who was identified as Kosta Kecmanovic, was a student at the Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, born in 2009.

Upon arriving at the school, the seventh-grade student pulled his father’s handgun out and shot a security guard, police said. The man died on the spot.

Next, Kecmanovic opened fire on several children gathered around a table and a piano.

He then reloaded his gun and made his way toward the history classroom, where he shot the teacher from the door, and fired randomly at the students, as they ducked for cover behind their desks.

Eight kids were killed—seven boys and one girl born between 2009 and 2012—alongside the security guard.

The history teacher and six other students, four boys and two girls, were hospitalized. One of them sustained life-threatening injuries and had to undergo surgery.

After the attack, the boy went out into the schoolyard, threw his gun to the ground, and called the police, confessing to the shooting. By that time, the police had already been notified of the shooting.

Kecmanovic was arrested in the schoolyard.

Local Milan Milosevic told N1. Television that his daughter was in the classroom with the attacker. “She managed to escape,” he said. When he heard what had happened, he rushed to the school. “I saw the security guard lying under the table. I saw two girls with blood on their shirts,” he said.

“He was somewhat silent, and appeared nice and had good grades. Did not know much about him; he was not that open to everyone. I would never expect that this could happen,” a 14-year-old girl named Evgenija said.

“I heard noises and I thought some boys, some kids were throwing firecrackers, just for the fun of it, but then I heard that even closer and … then I saw the security guard falling to the ground,” she said, adding that she then ran away.

A Planned Affair

According to police chief Milić, Kecmanovic must have been planning the attack for a while, perhaps for a month. He had made sketches with classrooms and a list of “targets” he planned to “liquidate” in each class.

“I have seen thousands of investigations in 25 years but this is unheard of in Serbia,” the police chief said.

A motive has not yet been established, “nor has [the shooter] communicated one to us,” he added.

Serbian interior minister Bratislav Gasic said at a news conference that the boy had two guns on his person, as well as four Molotov cocktails. The guns were legally licensed to his father, who claims he kept them locked in a safe.

“The kid obviously had the code from the safe as soon as he managed to get hold of those two guns—and three clips with 15 bullets each,” the minister said.

Both of the shooter’s parents have been taken into custody.

Underage Legality

Because of age restrictions coded in Belgrade’s criminal law, Kecmanovic is too young to be held criminally responsible, the Belgrade prosecutor’s office said. Social services will decide the killer’s fate.

“Society has changed, so have minors and children,” deputy public prosecutor Goran Ilić told public broadcaster RTS. “There is no need to do anything hastily under the influence of this event, we need thorough consideration before deciding whether changes to the Law on Minors are necessary.”

Although the western Balkans are awash with hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons left over from the wars and unrest of the 1990s, mass shootings remain extremely rare in the area. This is the first shooting to occur at a Serbian school.

According to Luka, a 17-year-old who studies in a nearby high school, this was a tragedy that had been long in the making.

“This is a mistake that the entire Serbian society has been making for over a decade,” he said, blaming the “popularization of violent crime through public and media, through art, through everything.”

Education Minister Branko Ruzic declared three days of national mourning starting on Friday.

Reuters contributed to this article.