At least seven people were killed Wednesday in Brazil after two masked men opened fire at a school near the southeastern city of Sao Paulo. Authorities said the pair also killed the owner of a nearby used-car business before the school attack.
Authorities said that the men were former students of the school, the Associated Press reported.
“It is the saddest scene I have seen in my whole life,” Joao Doria, governor of Sao Paulo state, said at a news conference afterward. “These teenagers were brutally assassinated.”
Police said in a statement that the shooters later killed themselves, Reuters reported. Police also said that five of the victims were children and that the others included an adult working at the school and a bystander. Nine people were wounded in the attack, authorities said.
Witnesses said the shooting started during the school’s morning recess. Lunch lady Silmara Cristina Silva de Moraes, 54, helped hide 50 children in the cafeteria. “We opened the kitchen and started to put as many children as we could inside, closed everything and told them to lie on the ground,” she told local newspaper G1. “It was terrifying because it was a lot of shots, a whole lot of shots and a lot of panic.”
Mass shootings are rare in Brazil, but they are growing more common. In December, a man fatally shot four people outside a cathedral in Sao Paulo before killing himself. In October 2017, a student in the central city of Goiana shot six classmates at his middle school, two of them fatally.
The shooting comes as Brazilians are calling for looser gun laws to arm themselves amid a deadly crime wave. Brazil’s new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, signed a decree earlier this year making it easier for the average citizen to own a gun.