GONZAGA, Brazil – Thousands of mourners packed the Roman Catholic (search) church in this small farming community Friday, quietly filing by the casket of the Brazilian shot and killed by London police after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.
After a funeral Mass, Jean-Charles de Menezes (search) was to be buried in a cemetery on a hill overlooking Gonzaga (search), a town of 6,000 where many go abroad to make money so they can return for a better life back home.
Sitting on a wooden pew near his son's flag-draped coffin, Menezes' father, Matzinhos da Silva, wept and covered his face with his hands. Menezes' distraught mother, Maria, was being comforted at a friend's home.
"Jean was very well-loved in Gonzaga," said Pedro Zacharias, a friend of the dead man. "He was a kind, gentle and very decent person who only wanted to help his family."
By noon, police estimated that more than 10,000 people had filed past the coffin since it arrived Thursday in Gonzaga. Many mourners came from surrounding communities, and some people passed by the coffin twice or more, said police Capt. Murilo Castro.
Homes and small businesses were festooned with streamers and balloons painted green, white and yellow — the colors of the Brazilian flag.
Though no protests were planned, signs on buildings showed residents' outrage that police pumped eight bullets into the 27-year-old Menezes as he boarded a subway on his way to work. His relatives dispute police accounts that he wore a bulky jacket and ran away from police.
"We Want Justice," said one sign. Another read: "Jean, Martyr of British Terrorism."
Friday was declared a municipal holiday because "the entire town has been traumatized," Zacharias said. "It is as if everyone is carrying an enormous weight of sadness on their shoulders."
Witnesses in London said plainclothes police chased Menezes into a subway car, pinned him to the floor and shot him. The killing sparked demonstrations in Gonzaga, located in the heart of a poor region that has long been Brazil's main source of illegal immigrants to the United States and Europe.
Menezes' family and the Brazilian government reacted angrily to a statement from the British Home Office (search) implying that he was living in Britain illegally because his student visa expired two years ago.
In a statement, Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the status of Menezes' visa "in no way alters the responsibility of British authorities for the tragic death of an innocent, peace-loving Brazilian citizen."
"It must bear no influence on the investigation of the tragedy or on the measures the British government should adopt in terms of compensation to Jean-Charles de Menezes' family," the statement said.
Giovani de Menezes told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that his slain brother had said he had a multiple entry visa allowing him to work legally in Britain. "Even if it is true that his visa had expired, that does not justify what the police did to him," the brother said.