Friends confront each other outside wake held for students killed Yesterday by a classmate
Marcos Brindicci  /  Reuters
Friends of the slain students comfort each other outside a stadium where a wake was held Wednesday in Carmen de Patagones.
updated 9/29/2004 5:36:36 PM ET 2004-09-29T21:36:36

Hundreds of mourners marched in a funeral cortege Wednesday in southern Argentina for two of the three students gunned down by a teenage classmate in the nation’s worst school shooting on record.

Weeping classmates of a girl and a boy slain during Tuesday’s fusillade joined relatives behind a motorcade that slowly carried the caskets to the municipal cemetery in Carmen de Patagones in a remote corner of Buenos Aires province.

The third victim, a teenage girl, was buried later in a ceremony at a private cemetery.

The city of 25,000, perched at the gateway to windswept Patagonia about 610 miles south of Buenos Aires, was rattled Tuesday by crackling gunfire that killed three students and wounded five others at Islas Malvinas Middle School No. 2.

Police said the suspect showed up before the teacher arrived in class, drew his gun and started shooting about 7:30 a.m., firing bursts from a 9mm handgun as students hid under their desks. A 15-year-old classmate of the victims was arrested. Police said they knew of no motive for the shooting.

The suspect was detained at a juvenile center for psychiatric testing.

National debate over violence
President Nestor Kirchner declared two days of national mourning, and a media debate raged over violence in the nation’s classrooms. Some drew comparisons to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High in Littleton, Colo., and other U.S. school shootings.

One newspaper headline read, “Bowling for Patagones,” echoing the Michael Moore film “Bowling for Columbine” about the Colorado shooting, in which two teenage gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves.

The nationally broadcast funeral march came after an all-night vigil beside a club hall. Many in the small city knew the victims and sobbed openly as the funeral procession continued for hours.

Mourners passed under a cemetery archway bearing the word “Pax,” which is Latin for “Peace.” Some carried huge wreaths, or coronas, of yellow, pink and purple flowers. The coffins were carried in the beds of pickup trucks under mounds of carnations.

One of the five wounded students was released from the hospital Wednesday. The four others remained hospitalized, with one boy reported in extremely critical condition with three bullet wounds and internal injuries.

Tuesday’s killings triggered intense debate over spiraling school violence in Argentina, long considered one of South America’s safer countries.

Beatings and other attacks on students and teachers alike have alarmed educators recently, but Education Secretary Daniel Filmus said nothing compared with the new attack.

“This is not a typical case of school violence,” he said.

Nonetheless, he pledged to improve school efforts to detect dangerous or troubled students and talked of clamping down on youth access to guns.

“There are some 1.5 million homes with firearms in them, but minors must not be able to get their hands on them,” he said.

Crime wave across country
Some Argentines worried that schools were no longer immune to a crime wave shaking the country. Kidnappings, carjackings and thefts have made daily headlines since a deep economic crisis hit two years ago.

Elizabeth Gonzalez Montaner, a psychologist who specializes in school violence, said complex factors — from poverty and breakdown of the family to drug use and anxiety disorders — threatened youth.

“Argentina in recent years has had a surge in violence, and the schools are not immune from this, either,” she said.

Agustina Bosch, 19, said she believed the shooting highlighted growing aggression among youth.

“Young people are exhibiting a lot of violence, and it’s getting worse,” Bosch said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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