Fresh from murdering three relatives at home, a teenager walked to the next village Sunday and calmly opened fire on a quiet town square, killing nine more people before turning the gun on himself.
The murder-suicide in southern France was one of the country’s worst multiple killing ever.
“It was like he was hunting birds,” said Guy Sintes, the owner of a cafe on the square in Cuers, a sunny village near the Mediterranean port of Toulon.
Eight other people were wounded in the half-hour morning shooting rampage, three of them seriously, police said on customary anonymity. The victims’ ages ranged from 17 to 75.
Television footage from the scene showed sidewalks and a car spattered with blood and a bullet hole through a shop window.
“The people are devastated, totally traumatized. The village is in shock,” said Cuers Mayor Guy Gigou.
The boy was identified as Eric Borel, 16, but the impetus for the killings was unclear. His father died recently of cancer. Neighbors of his family, interviewed on French television, described him as taciturn and said his room was plastered with posters of Hitler and neo-Nazi themes.
Villagers with eyes red from crying sat on the ground, shaking their heads as they recalled traumatic scenes: An old woman shot as she walked her dog, an elderly man gunned down on his way to the cafe.
Two victims were killed while withdrawing money from a cash machine and another while playing boules, the Provencal bowling game, on the village square.
Sintes said the killer retraced his steps toward a man he had wounded in the stomach to shoot him again in the head, killing him.
“He was very calm, very poised. He put the gun to his shoulder, held his gun steady, adjusted his aim and fired,” Sintes said.
The killings began in the village of Sollies-Pont, about six miles north of Toulon. There, the 16-year-old boy used a hammer and baseball bat to kill his mother, stepfather and half-brother, according to police, who had initially identified two of the dead as the boy’s father and brother.
The boy then walked to Cuers, about three miles north, where he began shooting at random in a parking lot, outside a bank and in the town square where villagers shopped.
“He was shooting at anything that moved. He was firing everywhere,” a woman living in Cuers told France-Info radio.
Another witness from the village said the boy did not appear agitated.
“I saw him go past my shop with his rifle, at around 8 this morning. He was walking calmly, he wasn’t in a hurry,” said Frederic Bares, who runs a newsstand in the village.”At first I thought he was a hunter.”
Police found the seven bodies of the victims scattered in streets throughout the village.