RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A man with a hatchet jumped over a wall and invaded a daycare center Wednesday in Brazil, killing four children and wounding at least five 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.
Images broadcast on networks showed weeping parents outside the private daycare center called Cantinho do Bom Pastor. The attack took place on the center’s playground, according to the local affiliate of the television network Globo. NSC, the affiliate, showed a photo of the suspect with a closely shaved head. Police have yet to confirm his identity.
Blumenau’s mayor, Mário Hildebrandt, suspended classes and said he will declare a 30-day mourning period. The state government said in a statement that rumors circulating on social media of other potential attacks were false.
The mayor said five wounded children were taken to hospitals. One was in serious condition.
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 daycare center. That attack also occurred in Santa Catarina state, in 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 researchers prepared the report for the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“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,” 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.”
Brazil’s Education Ministry planned to create a group to develop a national policy to fight violence in schools, the ministry’s press office told The Associated Press, confirming a report by state television.