Associated Press: SAO PAULO — A man with a hatchet jumped over a wall and burst into a day care center Wednesday in Brazil, killing four children and wounding at least four others, authorities said.
The assailant turned himself in at a police station and did not appear to have any connection with the center, which offers nursery services, preschool education and after-school activities. The dead were between the ages of 5 and 7, authorities said.
Authorities were searching for a motive, the police detective leading the investigation, Ronnie Esteves, told television reporters in Blumenau, a city of 366,000 in southern Brazil, near the Atlantic coast.
The state’s civil police chief, Ulisses Gabriel, confirmed that the attacker was a 25-year-old man from neighboring Parana state. He will be charged with murder and attempted murder. Police believe the attack was an isolated act and not related to any other crimes, Gabriel said.
Images broadcast on networks showed weeping parents outside the private day care center called Cantinho do Bom Pastor. The attack took place on the center’s playground, according to the local affiliate of television network Globo. NSC, the affiliate, showed a photo of the suspect with a closely shaved head. Police have yet to confirm his identity.
A woman conforts a crying girl outside the daycare center “Cantinho do Bom Pastor” after a fatal attack on children in Blumenau, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. A man with a hatchet jumped over a wall and invaded the daycare center, killing four children and wounding at least five others, authorities said – Patrick Rodrigues/Portal NSC Total via AP
Blumenau’s mayor, Mário Hildebrandt, suspended classes and said he will declare a 30-day mourning period. Authorities said any reports of other attacks or threats against schools in the region were false.
School attacks in Brazil have happened with greater frequency in recent years. Last week, a student in Sao Paulo fatally stabbed a teacher and wounded several others in Sao Paulo.
Brazil has seen at least one past attack on a day care center. That attack also occurred in Santa Catarina state, in May 2021, when an assailant used a dagger to kill three children under 2 years old and two adults.
From 2000 to 2022, 16 attacks or violent episodes happened in schools, four of them in the second half of last year, according to a report from researchers led by Daniel Cara, an education professor at the University of Sao Paulo. The 12 researchers — comprised of psychologists, social scientists, public school educators, journalists and activists — prepared the report for the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
There is no single factor to explain the rise of such attacks, but a common denominator is what Cara calls “a crisis of perspective” regarding economic problems and the likelihood that each assailant endured situations of frustration and violence, including bullying and harassment.
“Given the lack of perspective and the way they were victimized,” they get recruited by online communities and seek a way to take revenge on society, Cara told The Associated Press by phone.
“They are usually young people who have a masculinist, misogynistic, racist discourse, who worship neo-Nazi and fascist symbols, and who navigate in communities where violence is glorified,” Cara added.
Experts say April is a particularly sensitive month for school attacks as it concentrates the anniversaries of the 1999 Columbine school shooting in the U.S. and a shooting in a school in Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area in 2011. These events are glorified in violent communities and can act as triggers for new attacks, Cara said.
Brazilian Justice Minister Flávio Dino told reporters in Brasilia that he was directing 150 million reais ($30 million) from the nation’s public security fund to shore up school safety. That money will pay for both heightened policing and an expansion of a Brasilia-based team for the monitoring of deep-web communities, he said. Earlier Wednesday, Dino met with representatives from student associations.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Camilo Santana announced the creation of a group to address school violence. Santana will lead the group, which is scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday.
“There is no greater pain than that of a family who loses its children or grandchildren, even more so in an act of violence against innocent and defenseless kids,” President Lula wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers are the families of victims and the community of Blumenau in the face of the monstrosity of what occurred.”
Top Feature Photo: Women sit in an embrace outside the “Cantinho do Bom Pastor” daycare center after a fatal attack on children, in Blumenau, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. A man with a hatchet jumped over a wall and invaded the daycare center, killing four children and wounding at least five others, authorities said – Patrick Rodrigues/Portal NSC Total via AP