WSJ reports: RIO DE JANEIRO- At least 12 students were killed here at an elementary school Thursday after a former student armed with handguns talked his way on to the premises and opened fire before taking his own life, police said.
A gunman kills at least 12 people at a school in Rio de Janeiro before turning the gun on himself. Video courtesy of Reuters and photo courtesy of AP.
The killings, which city officials described as Brazil's worst-ever schoolhouse violence, produced a mix of shock, grief and dismay in a nation that has long struggled with high crime levels, but so far remained immune to the kind of murderous rampages at U.S. schools such as Virginia Tech in recent years. "It's not characteristic of this country for this type of crime to happen," said President Dilma Rousseff, who appeared on the verge of tears as she called for a moment of silence in memory of the young victims during a televised speech.
Gunman Wellington Menezes de Oliveira
Police said 23 year old Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, pictured above, walked into the Tasso da Silveira public school in the Realengo neighborhood on Rio's west side as classes started about 8 a.m. local time. He was armed with two .38-caliber revolvers and ample ammunition, police said.
To get in, he told guards he was there to give a presentation to students as part of the school's 40th anniversary celebrations. On his way in, Mr. Oliveira spoke briefly with a teacher who recognized him from his school days. Then, he walked casually into a classroom and opened fire, officials said.
Mr. Oliveira shot and killed 10 female students and two males during the rampage, and injured at least 16 others—some of whom remained in surgery late Thursday—before police arrived at the scene. The victims were between the ages of 12 and 15.
Investigators are still putting together a picture of Mr. Oliveira. But his act bore some of the hallmarks of the bloody schoolhouse violence perpetrated by deranged killers bent on carrying out premeditated suicidal rampages.
A former co-worker at a food company described Mr. Oliveira as an introverted man who was fired for "low productivity," the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.
He also left a suicide note that included detailed instructions on how to care for his body, including entreaties about which kind of material should be used for a shroud and about keeping it sterile. Mr. Oliveira asked to be buried beside his mother, and requested that a "faithful follower of God visits my grave at least one time, I need him to pray before my grave and ask God to forgive me for what I've done."
The shootings took place in a densely populated, lower middle-class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro's west—far different than the scalloped white sand beaches and dramatic green hills in the postcard version of Rio.
The school is a plain four-story cement block building walled off from the street, with a asphalt courtyard and playground surrounding the building.
During the attack, some wounded students fled the school and made their way to a nearby house, leaving smears of blood on the doorway as they entered for safety, TV images showed.
Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral said that a quick response by a local policeman responding to cries of help from a group of wounded children may have saved lives. Sgt. Marcio Alves rushed into the school where he ran across Mr. Oliveira, who was coming out of a classroom. "He leveled his gun at me, and I shot him in the abdomen. He fell into a stairwell, where he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head," Sgt. Alves told reporters.
Frantic parents descended on the school searching for their children. Police officers sought to control crowds. A mother screamed in anguish as she learned details of the attack. Nearby, a woman fainted. A man picked her up and sought to bring her to medical attention.
"I saw a lot of children dead and a dead bandit covered up," a young girl, who did not give her name, said during a televised interview just as she emerged from the school. "The teacher told us to get on the floor. We were all very scared and trembling."
Across the city, which already struggles with one of the world's highest murder rates from gang violence and other crime, news of the killing brought a heightened sense of angst that they may be faced with a new brand of senseless killings. Though gun laws restrict ownership, in practice they are easy to get.
Brazilian TV ran video footage from U.S. school killings at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech throughout the day as the country searched for reference points for the killings. "It's totally atypical of Brazil. We're used to hearing of this kind of thing happening in the USA, but not here," said Nilza Waldeck, a retired schoolteacher in Rio. "It's shocking "Brazil's culture typically shows little aggression, particularly against children."