São Paulo (AP) – At least 19 people were shot to death within the span of about three hours in Brazil's biggest metropolitan area, law enforcement officials said Friday.
Alexandre de Moraes, the head of the São Paulo State Public Safety Department, said at a news conference that police are trying to determine if Thursday night's shootings in the suburbs of Osasco, Barueri and Itapevi, on the western outskirts of São Paulo, are related.
He said 15 of the victims were shot dead in Osasco, three were killed in Barueri and one in Itapevi. Seven people were wounded and are hospitalized.
The mayor of Osasco, Jorge Lapas, told the Globo TV network the killings may have been in reprisal for the recent shooting deaths of two police officers.
At least 10 of the dead were shot at a bar after hooded men got out of a car and opened fire.
Not far away, one young man was shot outside an ice cream store. In the area, another man was shot by two men on a motorcycle.
Other shootings took place at five other locales.
Citing witnesses, Moraes said that in at least two instances, gunmen wearing face masks arrived and asked who had criminal histories. Those who said they did were shot.
"We will investigate if the killings were committed by drug traffickers, by off-duty police officers or were acts of vengeance for the recent killings of two police officers."
Amnesty International said in a statement the killings were a "massacre."
Atila Roque, who heads the organization's Brazil branch, said "unfortunately massacres like this one in São Paulo have become part of the routine of violence in our cities."
"Off- and on-duty policemen are frequently responsible for a significant portion of these homicides. A swift, impartial and transparent investigation must be conducted to discover who is responsible for this barbaric act."