By Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) - The French student who shot his headmaster and pupils in his high school in southeastern France on Thursday was fascinated with the 1999 Columbine massacre in the United States, his social media profiles showed.
The 16-year old son of an ultra-conservative local councillor in the Mediterranean town of Grasse, world famous as a centre for perfume production, updated his Facebook profile three days ago with the photo of a zombie-like skeleton in a long leather coat, carrying two assault weapons.
Armed with a shotgun, handguns, a grenade and possibly a homemade explosive device, he barged into his school, shooting his principal who tried to intervene as he went through the school's hallways.
"The first investigations suggest he had consulted videos of mass killings in America," Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters.
The background photo of the young man's YouTube page shows a picture of the Columbine shooting and posts a link to American rapper Ill Bill's song "The Anatomy Of A School Shooting".
His Facebook page carries several violent and morbid pictures, screenshots of a video of the Columbine shooting and a video of a man with a ghoulish mask shooting an unloaded handgun at the audience and then shooting himself in the head.
France's BFM TV station reported he had posted a photo last week of several young people lying in a pool of blood on a Facebook group for his class at the Lycee Alexis de Tocqueville.
When his classmates told him this was not funny and that they were shocked, he reportedly said it was "just a joke".
Jean-Rene Laget, a member of the same small right-wing party as the youth's father, told Reuters that as far as he knew the young man had never caused any trouble before.
"He is a totally normal young man who made no waves, a bit timid. Nobody would have thought he would be able to do something like that," he said.
Grasse prosecutor Fabienne Atzori told reporters that the teenager had difficulties integrating in the school and had bad relations with some of his classmates.
Fellow student Achraf told BFM TV said the gunman was "not a nasty guy" and hinted that he had been bullied by classmates.
"I think it is the persecutions, that is why he blew a fuse," he said.
Atzori, who said the teenager could not be named as he was a minor, said he had initially burst into a school classroom carrying weapons and looking for specific students.
After failing to find them, he left the room only to be accosted by the headmaster, who had been alerted to his presence. At that point, he shot the school principal in the shoulder and a student in the stomach.
Police arrived quickly and he put up no resistance when he was arrested.
"This was a crazy act by a fragile young man fascinated by firearms," Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters.
(Editing by Tom Heneghan)