Rio buries school shooting dead, Pope 'appalled'



RIO DE JANEIRO- Grief-stricken Brazilians on Friday buried their children slain in a school massacre in Rio, as the nation struggled to comprehend the ghastly act of a suicidal young man.
Just 24 hours after the attack by a former student, thousands filed into the Morundu cemetery near the Rio suburb of Realengo, where the shooting occurred, to lay the first children to rest.



Rio buries school shooting dead, Pope 'appalled'
Rose petals cascaded out from a military police helicopter as it flew overhead during the funeral of 13-year-old Laryssa Silva, prompting mourners to gasp and weep.
As Brazil, with the world's largest Catholic population, grieved over its worst school shooting ever, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to victims' families, saying he was "appalled" by the attack against "defenseless children," the archbishop of Rio said.
"The Holy Father wishes to express his solidarity and provide spiritual comfort to families who have lost their children and to the entire school community," according to a message sent by the Vatican to Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta.
Benedict urged "all Cariocas... to say no to violence."
The dead, all age 13 to 15, were shot execution style by 23-year-old Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, who returned to his former school to unleash a terrifying slaughter.
"This miserable man destroyed our family," cried out Jackson da Silva, Laryssa's godfather.
"He had no heart. What he did was horrific," he told reporters at the cemetery.
Police, politicians, and medical personnel who tended to Thursday's wounded and dying attended the funerals. Doctors in white smocks stood at attention, their stethoscopes around their necks.
On Thursday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who took office in January, could not hold back the tears as she shared her grief with a nation shocked by the tragedy, and declared three days of national mourning.
"This (crime) is not representative of the country. Innocent children lost their lives and their future," she said.
Rousseff, who visits China this weekend, had no plans yet to travel to Rio for the funerals, the president's office told AFP.
By Friday, 11 of the 12 dead had been identified by relatives. Eleven youths remain hospitalized, some with serious injuries.
Emerging details reveal troubled aspects of the shooter, who only stopped firing when he himself was shot in the leg by a police officer and then turned one of his two revolvers on himself, officials said.
A rambling, religiously themed suicide note was found in his clothes but it shed little light on the motivation of his macabre attack on defenseless children, aged between nine and 15, at the start of morning classes at the Tasso da Silveira public school.
Some of the chaotic scenes were caught by the school's closed-circuit video camera system, whose images showed desperate students running down hallways in a desperate bid to elude the attacker, who also could be seen reloading his weapon.
A video clip, likely from a mobile phone and posted on the website YouTube, showed several panicked students, their shirts stained with blood, racing out the doors of the building.
According to survivors' accounts, Menezes de Oliveira calmly walked into a classroom and told students to close their eyes and put their hands in the air.
"You are going to die now!" he screamed moments later as he methodically opened fire with two handguns, ignoring pleas for mercy from the terrified students.
"A lot of people shouted 'No, don't shoot me, don't kill me,'" 12-year-old survivor Jade Ramos de Araujo told O Globo newspaper, "but they still died."
People who knew him described Menezes de Oliveira as a quiet and friendless person who was bullied in school, with one former classmate recalling that the future shooter was often humiliated by girls who rejected his advances.
"I honestly do not know why he did not do that (the massacre) with our own group," ex-classmate Bruno Linhares, 23, told local media.
The tragedy has renewed debate about the relative ease of acquiring handguns in one of the biggest cities in the Americas, with the spotlight on Rio as it prepares to host the World Cup football tournament in 2014 and Olympics two years later.
There are some 580,000 illegal handguns in Rio de Janeiro state, far more than the 225,000 legally registered, according to a parliamentary commission.
Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo on Thursday announced a new government campaign against gun violence in the country.
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Saturday, April 9th 2011
AFP
           


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