In a massacre that will remind many of the horrible events taking place in Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007, one year ago today on April 7, 2011, a lone gunman by the name of Wellington Menezes de Oliveira walked into the Tasso da Silveira Municipal School (Escola Municipal Tasso da Silveira), an elementary school in the Realengo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro and killed 12 children between the ages of 10 and 13. 20 others were wounded in the massacre, the first non-gang, non-police oriented mass murder in Brazil’s history.
Photo collage of victims killed during massacre
Oliveira walked into the school at about 8.30am Rio time, identified himself as a former student and said that he wanted to take a look at the school’s history. After being allowed to entered, Oliveira went to the second floor of the school instead of administrative offices and walked into an 8th grade classroom. According to surviving victims, Oliveira saluted the kids and acted in a very kind manner. Moments later, he would reach inside the bag he brought with him and begin to shoot at students with .38 and .32 caliber revolvers. One of the surviving boys said that Oliveira chose the girls that he would shoot while shooting at boys to neutralize them.
The gunman, Wellington Menezes de Oliveira
Of the 12 children killed during the massacre, 10 were girls. There are videos caught by school surveillance cameras posted on youtube of the various children running for their lives in the school hallways. The gunman was headed to the school’s third floor when a Rio military police officer, Márcio Alexandre Alves, shot him in the abdomen and leg. Oliveira fell down the stairs and then killed himself with a shot to the head. As is tradition in Brazil, 11 of the 12 children that were killed in the massacre were buried the following day with the 12th being cremated two days after the shooting.
Gunman posing with weapons
It was later discovered in letters that the gunman had written that he had been a victim of bullying. The killer admired Seung-Hui Cho, the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007 that took 32 lives and left 25 wounded, and referred to Cho as “brother”. In a video recorded by Oliveira, he says: “I hope this serves as a lesson, especially to those school officials who stood by with their arms crossed as students were being attacked, humiliated, ridiculed…. I want to leave very clear that I am not responsible for the deaths that will occur, even though my fingers will be on the trigger”, in an attempt to blame those that bullied him for the murders he would go on to commit. The message also included a quote from the Bible.
Air and ground photos of firefighters, crowds and ambulance in front of the school
Relatives of a victim wait outside the school
Woman after receiving news that her goddaughter was one of the shooting victims
Man stands in front of the school in a t-shirt stained with blood
Oliveira’s family didn’t understand why he chose to do what he did although his adopted sister Roselane said he was connected to Islam and spent his days in front of a computer. According to the sister, Oliveira was “very strange”, “didn’t have any friends” and “never left the house.” The family made no attempts to claim his body and he was buried as an indigent.
Police identify the men that sold the weapons to the gunman. Izaías de Souza, 48, left and Charleston Souza de Lucena, 38
Members of the community of Realengo protest
Luan Vitor Pereira is one of the survivors of the massacre. Having been shot in the head, Pereira lost the vision in his right eye. His mother, Maria de Fátima Pereira, says: “Sometimes I ask: Luan, are you sad because you can only see in one eye? He responds, ‘No, mother. With just one I can do everything.’ It is (things like) this that strengthens us”, she says. It has only been since last month that she has been able to return to regular routine. Luan’s father, Valdecir Pereira, says that his son “has a lot of will to live. He hasn’t been depressed and his strength was really incredible. It is his perseverance that made him get out of the bed”, says the father who is proud of his son that just turned 14 years old on the 29thof March.
Luan Vitor Pereira, one of the survivors of the massacre
Luan is one of the last of 18 victims to leave the hospital after the tragedy. He still hasn’t been able to return to playing soccer, one of the passions of his life but his victory is still being alive.
“It was difficult, because of the injury, his behavior has been affected. His attitude changed. But I can say that now he is calmer. It was a period very difficult to accept”, says Luan’s mother. There are still fragments of the bullet behind Luan’s eyeball and as he recuperates he continues to make adjustments in order to move the right side of his face. According to his mother, it is his determination of the “little warrior” that makes all of the difference. These reprehensible acts of violence are unfortunate although we can no longer call them incomprehensible. I don’t say this to mean that I understand or condone these horrible acts, but it is a call to ask ourselves what ii it that is in happening in the human condition that drives some of us to go to such lengths in their frustrations with life. Until we are ready to discuss the circumstances that lead to these incidents and stop excusing them as simple acts of the lashing out of crazed gunmen, we won’t see the reality that leads to these actions. All is not well in society and watching American Idol and the Real Housewives of this or that is not going to solve the problem. Wake up people!
Continue below for more photos of Luan, the massacre and the burial and funeral.
Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldinho visits Luan in the hospital
Luan’s family with Luan and soccer superstar Ronaldinho
Funeral and burial of victims
Mourners at funeral
Boys stand in front of mural of crosses in remembrance of the victims