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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Mourns School Deaths

ERFURT, Germany -- He was called shy, ordinary, a loner, unassuming, timid and even lazy. But no one who knew Robert Steinhaeuser thought the troubled teenager would turn into one of Germany's most savage killers.

The 19-year-old slaughtered 16 people, 13 of them teachers, at his former school Friday with a pistol before taking his own life in one of the world's worst school killings, leaving the east German town of Erfurt and the entire nation grappling with questions about his motives.

Two students and a police officer were also killed.

Steinhaeuser failed to qualify to take the rigorous school-leaving examination last year and was forced to repeat the final year. But he was expelled in February for forging absentee excuses -- a humiliation he concealed from his mother.

"He desperately needed his high school diploma for status, but when that failed his world collapsed around him," the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel wrote.

The loss of the diploma and dashed hopes of attending college sent him into a tailspin, the magazine postulated.

"It was a death sentence for the young man," Der Spiegel said. "It was a disgrace which he kept secret from everyone, even his own family. That's what led him to seek revenge on Friday with the executions and punishment."

Steinhaeuser lived with his mother, a hospital nurse, in a well-kept, four-story apartment building about 10 minutes from the Gutenberg school. His parents are separated.

German newspapers published a photograph of an ordinary looking teenager with short hair in a dark shirt and smiling pleasantly. But fellow pupils were quoted saying the boy nicknamed "Steini" had a bad relationship with both parents.

Der Spiegel said Steinhaeuser spent much of his time playing violent computer video games. His favorite was called "Counterstrike" in which anti-terror units wearing masks battle each other to death.

Based on comments from former classmates, teachers and others who knew him, it appeared he had carefully planned the assault in advance. Media reports said he had received a gun license just days before the attack.

Police said Steinhaeuser had singled out teachers during his rampage. One teacher tapped an index finger on her forehead as if to suggest he was insane. He went up to her, put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger, Der Spiegel said.

"I never thought of him as a person capable of this," classmate Thomas Rethfeldt said. "Some say he was picked on, but if he was it wasn't much. He was reserved. I never thought he was a person capable of violence.

"He was actually rather intelligent," Rethfeldt said. "But he didn't seem to care very much about school. There was nothing at all out of the ordinary about him."

Andreas Forster, a biology and sports teacher also saw nothing unusual about him. "He was a quiet and reasonable sort of guy." He said Steinhaeuser was even rather timid in sports class.

"He was never among the more courageous in sport," Forster said, adding he had to give Steinhaeuser extra help with difficult gymnastics exercises.

"I see him before my eyes and I just cannot fathom that he would be capable of a crime like this."

But a different picture emerged from several newspaper and magazine reports. He was apparently a big fan of heavy metal rock music and the Iowa band "Slipknot" in particular.

The Thuringer Allgemeine newspaper reported that one of the reasons he was thrown out of school earlier this year was "notable psychological behavior" problems.

Rainer Gruge, a senior police detective in charge of the investigation, said that Steinhaeuser had joined a shooting club 18 months ago -- ironically part of a police sports club.

"He seemed to have devoted a lot of time and energy to weapons," Gruge said. "He was a very good marksman."

Authorities said his only police record was a single speeding ticket.

His grades were average. "He wasn't stupid, but he was a lazy bum in class," one student said.