On Tuesday 11th December in southern Brazil, a man opened fire in a cathedral after a midday mass, killing four people and wounding four others.
The incident happened at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Campinas, just north of Sau Paulo. Surveillance cameras show the man entering the church and sitting in the back for a few minutes with mainly elderly worshippers.
The shooter, reportedly carrying a revolver and a pistol, then stood up from his seat near the end of the mass and started firing randomly at civilians within the church.
Police in the plaza outside rushed in when they heard the shots and the gunman reportedly ran to the alter whilst firing at police and was hit in the side. He fell to the ground and shot himself in the head. Two guns and 28 rounds were left next to him when he died.
The priest conducting the mass, Amuary Thomazi, stated in a video published on social media: “I had started to celebrate mass at 12.15pm and at the end of the mass, a man entered and shot at his victims. Nobody was able to do anything.”
Another four people were injured and emergency services were first called to the building around 1.20pm. The victims have not been identified.
After paramedics took the bodies out of the church, the gunman was identified as 49-year-old Euler Fernando Grandolpho from Balinhos, who worked as a systems analyst with no criminal record.
He had held various jobs with government entities, including a stint as an assistant in the prosecutor in the public ministry in Sao Paulo, according to public records. Authorities have stated they do not know the motive behind the shooting and suspect Grandolpho had no specific target.
Eyewitness Pedro Rodrigues, a 66-year old retiree, has stated that he ran out of the building when he heard shots and realised what was happening. “I suddenly saw a man stand up, take position in front of a couple and shoot them point blank. I ran out fast and he continued firing many shots,” said Rodrigues. “But I managed to get out, I’m very lucky to be alive.”
Another witness, Alexandre Moraes, stated on the GloboNews channel: “It was frightful. He shot randomly at people, they were all praying.”
Witness Danielle Coutinho told EPTV she was sitting in the church chatting after mass when the gunfire began. A man sitting close to her was shot as others began to run.
“I saw people getting shot,” she said. “I can’t get that out of my head, it was horrible.”
The Diocese of Campinas issued a statement asking for peoples’ prayers at this “very painful time.”
“Thanks to the intervention of police, something much bigger was avoided,” stated police investigator Jose Henrique Ventura, adding that the four injured were in stable condition.
While Brazil leads the world in total annual homicides, 64,000 people being killed last year, mass shootings are relatively rare.
The rise in armed violence helped far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro win October’s presidential election, vowing to crack down on corruption, drug gangs and crime in the streets of Brazilian cities.
Bolsonaro takes office on 1st January 2019 and plans to ease gun laws, allowing civilians to arm themselves against criminals or shootings such as these. Critics have responded negatively and argue this policy will only increase the murder rate.