TROLLHATTAN, Sweden (AP) — When Lavin Eskander's family describes his cheerful personality and his passion for music, they switch back and forth between present and past tense, as if they haven't fully accepted that he's not coming back.
The 20-year-old teacher's assistant was stabbed to death Thursday as he tried to shield children at a school in southern Sweden from a masked, sword-wielding attacker. Fifteen-year-old Ahmed Hassan was also stabbed to death and two other people seriously injured in what police are calling a racist hate crime. Police shot and killed the attacker.
"My brother wanted to be an artist," Leith Eskander, 22, told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday. "He wanted to be famous and spread his songs and his love to the people."
Both Lavin and his brother were born in Sweden to Iraqi parents.
Their cousin, Saman Nazar, called Lavin a born entertainer who always made people laugh.
"Lavin is a funny guy. Really funny guy," said Nazar, 37. "He loves children ... and he's a really good role model. Good sense of what's right and what's wrong."
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to remember the victims at the Kronan school in Trollhattan, where most of the students are children of immigrants. Eskander's mother wailed "Lavin! Lavin!" and the crowd joined her in an anguished chorus.
The attack, coming at a time of unprecedented immigration to Sweden, has deeply stunned this industrial city, which witnessed a wave of racial violence in the 1990s and is struggling now with a high unemployment rate.
"Lavin was a Swede from top to toe. And he was murdered by a Swede," Nazar told the crowd Sunday.
Police have not released the name of the 21-year-old attacker, but Swedish media say he is Anton Lundin Pettersson of Trollhattan. The principal of the high school where he had studied technology confirmed the name to the AP.
"It's confirmed that it was Anton Lundin Pettersson who was the attacker," Marie-Louise Coon wrote in an email.
"As a person, he was very polite, nice and a little bit quiet," Coon wrote, adding Pettersson had never openly expressed any racist views or any political views at all. "He was, as you could say, a common student."
Police said surveillance video showed the attacker roaming through the school with a sword and a sharp knife, selecting victims who were all "dark-skinned." Investigators later found a letter at his home confirming a racist motive for the attack.
Leith Eskander rushed to the school at the news and saw his brother lying dead on the ground.
"By himself. Helpless. I called immediately the family, my friends. Nobody believed me," he said.
His brother's slaying has given him mixed feelings about his sense of belonging in Sweden, where their parents met in the 1990s and started a family.
"These days, actually, I don't know where my home is," Leith Eskander said. Then he changed his mind, recalling the outpouring of sympathy for his family from people in Trollhattan and across Sweden.
"I feel the love," he said. "My parents feel the love. Everybody loved Lavin. So of course this will always be home. We can't let a few people destroy it."
Ritter reported from Stockholm. AP reporter Matti Huuhtanen in Trollhattan contributed to this report.
David Keyton can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davidKeyton and Karl Ritter at https://twitter.com/karl_Ritter