A gunman opened fire on Christians at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday afternoon, after reportedly quietly witnessing an afternoon Mass at the back of the cathedral.
The gunman killed five people – the eldest, at 84, dying shortly after a surgical attempt to save his life – and injured three others. Euler Fernando Grandolpho, 49, also reportedly killed himself after police shot and wounded him, rendering him unable to continues shooting into the crowd.
The cathedral, also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Campinas, a major social hub in Brazil’s largest city and appeared to be hosting a Mass largely attended by retirees at the time of the shoot. Those killed in the incident range in age from 38 to 84, some of the congregants reportedly attending the Mass with elderly parents. Police are still investigating Grandolpho’s background for clues as to why he conducted the mass murder.
Security cameras caught the moment Grandolpho opened fire, prompting worshippers to scatter in panic.
Grandolpho reportedly attended the 12:15 p.m. Mass and awaited its conclusion before beginning to shoot into the crowd, firing an estimated total of 20 shots. He reportedly has no criminal record and police have not found any ties to violent criminal organizations or terrorist groups.
First District Police Commissioner Hamilton Caviola Filho told Globo News that Grandolpho had two guns on his person, but only shot with one of them. Filho believed that he had organized and executed the shooting according to a plan, and not acted out in the head of the moment.
Globo notes that Grandolpho appeared to have a “very strange” profile, including filing police reports as an alleged victim of persecution. He lived with his father, whose wife died recently, “was quite reclusive, used to stay in his room, left the home very seldom, and had undergone psychological treatment,” according to the news outlet.
Police seized two recorders, two computers, a tablet, and a diary from the shooter’s home. The diary, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspapers, belies a sense of paranoia, appearing to reference several massacres in recent Brazilian history and implying that Grandolpho believed the police were watching him and unspecified individuals were following his every move. He particularly mentioned a mass murder that occurred in January in the city of Ceará, prompted by an ongoing turf war between two of Brazil’s largest criminal gangs, the Red Command (CV) and the First Capital Command (PCC).
No news outlet has reported of any content in the diary that references the cathedral, however, or the Catholic Church generally. Police have not offered a concrete hypothesis for why the shooter unloaded on the crowd where he did.
The priest responsible for the Mass that Grandolpho attended before the murders, Father Amaury Thomazi, urged his congregation to pray for the victims and for Grandolpho’s soul in a statement posted to social media.
“I ask you friends to pray for this person,” he wrote, referencing the shooter. “He killed himself after the situation, he shot people with over 20 shots in here and then killed himself. Therefore, let us pray for him and for those that were hurt.”
Thomazi added that there was “nothing anyone could do, no way of helping” other than prayers.
Brazilian President Michel Temer posted a message on Twitter in solidarity with the victims of the attack. “Profoundly shaken by the news of this crime committed in the Campinas Cathedral, I send my condolences to the family of the victims,” he wrote. “And I pray for those who were hurt to have a speedy recovery.”
Profundamente abalado pela notícia desse crime cometido dentro da Catedral de Campinas, apresento minhas condolências aos familiares das vítimas. E rezo para que os feridos tenham rápida recuperação.
— Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) December 11, 2018
President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office in January, stated that he was “following the authorities’ investigation” and sent his solidarity to the victims, calling the shooting a “barbaric crime.”
Estamos acompanhando a apuração das autoridades sobre o crime bárbaro cometido hoje na Catedral Metropolitana de Campinas, em São Paulo. Nossos votos de solidadiedade às vítimas dessa tragédia e aos familiares.
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) December 11, 2018
Eyewitnesses stated to local media that there appeared to be no precipitating act for the shooting. One woman told Globo that she managed to run out of the church despite being told to stay put or get shot. “I thought about my three children,” she said, adding that she saw the gunman approach a smaller man and shoot him as she ran out. She did not suggest any pattern regarding the people that she saw the shooter target, however.