, Salem, MA

The World

April 9, 2011

Brazil buries schoolchildren, debates gun laws

RIO DE JANEIRO — Grief-stricken relatives threw themselves upon caskets and wept to exhaustion as Rio buried most of the 12 children killed in a school shooting. The massacre shocked Brazilians — and stoked new calls for stricter guns laws.

Sobbing and embracing family members as she watched the body of her 14-year-old niece Milena Santos Nascimento placed into a tomb, Ana Rosa Nascimento Alves could barely shake off the shock to describe her pain.

"Milena was a dreamer," she said. "Unfortunately, this madman came and ended her dreams."

It was the sentiment of a nation that watched repeated funerals Friday, services attended by upward of a thousand people each.

A day earlier, 10 girls and two boys aged from 12 to 15 were gunned down inside the Tasso da Silveira public school, most lined up along a wall and shot in the head at point-blank range. The shooter, identified as 23-year-old Wellington Oliveira, killed himself with one of his pistols after being confronted by police. At least 12 other students were injured, two of them reported in grave condition.

A few details began to emerge about Oliveira: He was a good student with a history of psychological problems who attended the Tasso school; he was fascinated with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.; he spent a lot of time on his computer watching videos on how to fire weapons. Still, those who knew him said he did not seem the type to carry out such violence.

Investigators said that they recovered at least 60 shell casings from the school and that most of those were shot by Oliveira, who witnesses said was firing both of the revolvers he was carrying.

Police said one of the guns used was reported stolen in 1994. The origin of the other was not yet known because the serial number had been filed off. It was not clear how or when Oliveira obtained the weapons. Police found Oliveira's home in disarray — he had burned his computer, apparently in an effort to thwart an investigation.

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