(AP) — A former student armed with a semiautomatic pistol and a revolver who killed four people and wounded 12 in two schools in Brazil had a swastika pinned to his vest and had been planning the attacks for two years, police said.
The shootings took place Friday at a public school with elementary and middle school students and a private school, both located on the same street in the small town of Aracruz in Espirito Santo state in southeastern Brazil. Three teachers and a student were killed. Five of the wounded remained in the hospital.
About four hours later, the shooter, identified as a 16-year-old boy who used to study at the public school, was arrested by police, Espirito Santo Gov. Renato Casagrande said. Authorities did not release the suspect’s name.
Authorities say the teenager used his family’s car to go from one school to the other, and had the license plate hidden by a cloth.
Security camera footage showed him wearing a bulletproof vest, according to Espirito Santo public security secretary Márcio Celante. The shooter gained access to the teachers’ lounge in the public school after breaking a lock.
Casagrande said the semiautomatic weapon belonged to the military police, while the revolver was a personal weapon registered in the name of the former student’s father, a military police officer.
The shooter is being held at a facility for underaged criminals.
School attacks are uncommon in Brazil, but have happened with somewhat greater frequency in recent years.
Not far from where Friday’s attacks occurred, in the city of Vitoria, a former student entered his school with homemade explosives and knives in August. No students or teachers were injured.
A month later, in the northeastern state of Bahia, another teenager used his father’s gun to shoot and killed a student in a wheelchair.
Both attackers had met online at chat groups, police later concluded.
Back in 2019, two former students entered their school and killed eight people in the city of Suzano in Sao Paulo state. They later killed themselves. Friends told police they were both obsessed with 1999’s Columbine shooting in the United States.
Police say investigations are still preliminary and they can’t jump to any conclusions about the motives for Friday’s shootings. But they said the 16-year-old attacker was wearing a military-style clothing and a swastika.
The family said he has received psychiatric treatment, which the school hadn’t been told about.
“This shows how the violence culture is a reality for some people, especially young people. This is a mental health issue which society has to deal with nowadays,” said Casagrande.
President Jair Bolsonaro has been a vocal supporter of gun rights. Experts say that in the past four years more than 40 decrees were making it easier for Brazilians to buy and register weapons. Sou da Paz Institute, a civil society organization, said in a report in September that Brazilians are buying more than a thousand weapons per day.
In the beginning of this year, a far-right influencer and Bolsonaro supporter said in a podcast that a Nazi party should be created in Brazil, in order to have freedom of speech.
At the time, the president condemned the influencer’s comments and compared Nazism to Communism. But in 2021, Bolsonaro hosted in his office and posed for pictures with German lawmaker Beatrix von Storch, who’s a granddaughter of one of Hitler’s ministers.