Brazil school shooter, 16, wore swastika, planned deadly attack for two years, police say

Investigators carry the body of a victim of a shooting at a school in Aracruz, Espirito Santo State, Brazil
(Kadija Fernandes/ AFP via Getty Images)

A 16-year-old former student who allegedly killed four people and wounded 12 at two schools in Brazil had a swastika pinned to his vest and had been planning the shooting rampage for two years, police said.

The shootings took place Friday at a public school with elementary and middle school students and at a private school, both 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 youth who used to study at the public school, was arrested by police, Espirito Santo Gov. Renato Casagrande said. Authorities did not release the teenager’s name but said he was armed with a semiautomatic pistol and a revolver.


Authorities say he used his family’s car to go from one school to the other, and had the license plate hidden by a cloth.

Security camera video showed him wearing a bulletproof vest, according to state Public Security Secretary Marcio 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, and the revolver was a personal weapon registered in the name of the former student’s father, a military police officer.

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The youth 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.

In August, not far from where Friday’s attacks occurred, a former student entered his school in the city of Vitoria with homemade explosives and knives. 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 kill a student in a wheelchair.

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Both young attackers had met online in chat groups, police later concluded.

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 the 1999 Columbine shooting in Colorado.

Police say investigations are still preliminary and have not drawn any conclusions about the motives for Friday’s shootings. But they said the 16-year-old alleged attacker was wearing 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 last four years, more than 40 presidential decrees made 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 were buying more than 1,000 weapons per day nationwide.