Brazilians were struggling to comprehend a shooting at a primary school in Rio de Janerio yesterday that left 11 children dead and many others injured.
In an incident the like of which the country has never experienced before, 10 girls and one boy – aged mostly between 11 and 13 – died after a 23-year-old gunman fired at least 30 rounds at his victims before killing himself. Some of them were told to face the wall before being shot at point-blank range in the head, while others ran away screaming and barricaded themselves in classrooms.
Wellington Oliveira, a former pupil of the Tasso da Silveira school, located in a working-class neighbourhood of western Rio, arrived at 8:30am local time saying he was there to deliver a lecture. However, he was carrying two handguns and a pre-written suicide note, and had already shot two children on a street nearby even before entering the site.
One student told a local TV station how the gunman had repeatedly shouted "I'm going to kill you all!"
"He kept telling the kids to face the wall and was shooting at their heads," Jade Ramos told the Globo network. "The children kept begging, 'No, please!' There was a lot of blood, children agonizing on the stairs."
Four of at least 18 injured children were said to be in a grave condition.
Oliveira's killing spree would have continued had he not been hit in the legs by police bullets. This caused him to fall down some stairs, after which he shot himself in the head.
"This day would have been so much worse if it were not for the hero policemen," said mayor Eduardo Paes, who described the events as a "hellish nightmare".
Though his motive is not yet clear, the murderer's suicide note contained bizarre instructions that his dead body should be bathed and wrapped in a white sheet that he had brought with him. He also directed that it should not be handled by anyone who was "impure", unless they wore gloves, and reportedly said that he was suffering from the AIDS virus.
At an event in the capital, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff asked tearfully and with a strained voice "for one minute of silence for these children who were taken so early from their life". She added: "It's not in the nature of our nation to have these types of crimes."