Masked gunmen have killed at least 19 people and injured seven more in a series of shootings on the outskirts of Brazil’s largest city of Sao Paulo, authorities say.
“This is very serious and merits a special investigation,” said Secretary of Public Security for Sao Paulo State Alexandre de Moraes in a Friday statement. “We don’t rule out any possibility.”
According to de Moraes, the shootings were the “largest killing of the year” that occurred Thursday night local time. He further added that a total of 15 individuals were killed in the city of Osasco, three in Barueri and one in Itapevi, all of which lie within Sao Paulo’s metropolitan area.
Authorities further pointed out that the gunmen used a 9mm pistol, commonly used by the Brazilian army, as well as 38 and 380mm guns, used by the country’s police forces, in the shooting attacks at 12 different sites, raising widening suspicions about the involvement of former or current police and military officers.
This is while investigators are considering the hypothesis that the killings may have been carried out by corrupt police officers, de Moraes added, explaining that they could have been seeking revenge for the murders of a policeman and a civil guard officer in Osasco and Barueri last week.
Video footage shows masked gunmen pulling up in a car and opening fire in a bar in Osasco. Ten people were killed there.
According to local press reports, a task force of 50 police officers has been set up to probe the shootings.
Meanwhile, witnesses in several locations reported that masked gunmen pulled up in a vehicle before opening fire on the victims.
In several cases, they added, the assailants checked the victims’ identity before shooting, or asked if they had criminal records.
Sao Paulo’s law enforcement authorities are reportedly looking into the possibility that attacks were targeted killings.