A 50-year-old man carrying a sawn-off shotgun forced his way into a Paris primary school Thursday morning before fatally shooting himself while a dozen children looked on. Psychological teams were called in to help the children cope.
A 50-year-old man with a history of family problems shot himself dead Thursday in a Paris primary school near the Eiffel Tower, in front of about a dozen stunned children.
Carrying a sawn-off shotgun, the man forced his way into the school in central Paris at 11:30 am (0930 GMT), pushing aside two adults who tried to stop him, Francois Weil, the city's top educational official, said.
After entering the building he placed the shotgun under his chin and fired, in view of several children aged six and seven who were descending a staircase for their lunch break.
Police said there appeared to be no particular reason the man had chosen the school.
"There has been no link established between this desperate act and the school itself," Paris police chief Bernard Boucault told reporters at the scene.
Police sources said the man had apparently been depressed after separating from his wife in 2009. He had been a longtime resident of the neighbourhood and lived very close to the school.
A psychological support team was sent to the school to assist traumatised children.
"I heard a shot. I saw all the blood. I saw the man. I saw the man fall back when he shot himself. It was horrible," a schoolgirl told France's Europe 1 radio.
"There was a loud bang," Irene, the mother of a student, told AFP. "Everyone ran away screaming."
The La Rochefoucauld school is a private Catholic institution that hosts a nursery as well as primary and secondary sections. It is located on rue Cler in the city's fashionable 7th district, also home to several embassies.
A boy who witnessed the gruesome suicide told Europe 1 he thought "terrorists had come into the school with pistols.
"Many others cried like me. I was very scared."
President Francois Hollande told a press conference he understood "the sadness of the nation sparked by this tragedy," adding: "Everything will be done to support these children."
Paris's Socialist Mayor Bernard Delanoe also expressed his "great sadness" at the incident and his "whole-hearted support for the little Parisians who were present" at the site of the tragedy.
Delanoe's deputy Anne Hidalgo, who is running for the mayor's job when he steps down next year, visited the school and said there had been a "rapid reaction" to the crisis.
But Rachida Dati from the right-wing UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is the mayor of the 7th district, said "the drama would not have unfolded... if the man had not been allowed to enter."
Education Minister Vincent Peillon cut short a visit to Brussels and visited the school on Thursday afternoon. He defended school authorities as well as the security measures in place, saying "the two women at the entrance tried to stop him."
Date created : 2013-05-16