SUZANO, Brazil: Classmates, friends and families of the victims of a mass shooting at a Brazil school began saying goodbye on Thursday, with thousands attending a wake in this devastated Sao Paulo suburb while authorities worked to understand what drove two former students to attack with a gun, crossbows and small axes.
Before 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Henrique de Castro launched an assault on the K-12 public school Wednesday morning, police said they shot and killed a man who owned a used car dealership nearby.
What came next, partially caught on surveillance camera footage shot at the school’s entrance and widely distributed in Brazil, was horrifying.
Upon entering, Monteiro is seen shooting several people in the head as they try to run away. Moments later, de Castro enters, first striking wounded people on the ground with a small axe and then swinging it wildly while scores of students run past him. De Castro then arms his bow and walks further into the school.
“I couldn’t sleep. I have two children in school and they are about the age of the victims,” said Wanda Augusta, a 46-year-old homemaker attending the wake.
In total, seven were killed at the school, including five students, a teacher and a school administrator. Nine others were wounded in the attack. Of those, seven were still hospitalized as of Thursday morning, three in intensive care, according to a statement from the health secretary.
Thursday’s large wake in a volleyball arena was for four of the students and the two school employees. Services for the other victims were held in other places.
“If only we could have identified the difficulties of these boys,” said Rossieli Soares, the state education secretary, while attending Thursday’s wake. “This is a problem in our society.”
While Latin America’s large nation has deep problems with violence — it’s the annual world leader in homicides — school shooting like those in the U.S. are rare. Wednesday’s attack reminded many Brazilians of an attack in 2011, when a gunman roamed the halls of a Rio de Janeiro school and killed 12 students.
Joao Camilo Pires de Campos, the state’s public security secretary, summed up what was on the minds of many Brazilians.
“The big question is: What was the motivation of these former students?” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Monteiro’s mother, Tatiana Taucci, offered a possible partial answer, telling Band News while hiding her face from the camera that her son had been bullied at the school.
“Bullying, they call it. ... He stopped going to school ... because of this,” she said.
She said she was surprised by his involvement and found out about the attack from the television like everyone else.
Minutes before the attack, Monteiro posted 26 photos on his Facebook page, included several with a gun and one that showed him giving the middle finger as he looked into the camera.
In some of the photos, he wore a black scarf with a white imprint of a skull and cross bones. No text accompanied the posts.
By Wednesday afternoon, Facebook had taken down Monteiro’s page.
During the attack, Monteiro opened fire with a .38 caliber handgun and de Castro used a crossbow, de Campos said. He said forensics would determine how each of the victims died.
Forensic vehicles carry away bodies of those killed in a school shooting in the Sao Paulo suburb of Suzano. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
The attackers were also carrying Molotov cocktails, knives and small axes, authorities said.
“In 34 years as a policeman, it’s the first time I see someone use a crossbow like that,” police Col. Marcelo Salles said. “It is horrendous.”
The assailants were trying to force their way inside a room at the back of the school where many students were hiding when police arrived. Instead of facing officers, Monteiro shot de Castro in the head and then shot himself, authorities said.
President Jair Bolsonaro ran on a platform that included promises to crack down on criminals, in part by expanding public access to guns. Soon after his Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro issued a decree making it easier to buy a gun.
“A monstrosity and cowardice without equal,” Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet expressing his sympathies for the families of the victims of Wednesday’s attacks.
Sen. Major Olimpio, a member of Bolsonaro’s party and a proponent of loosening gun legislation, renewed that stance hours after Wednesday’s rampage.
“We can’t let those who take advantage of this tragedy speak about how disarmament is the solution,” he tweeted, adding: “Weak and shameful ‘disarmament farce,’ which gave guns to criminals and prevented self-defense.”
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