PARIS -- The French police said on Thursday that a man entered the courtyard of a private Roman Catholic school in the upscale Seventh Arrondissement of Paris and committed suicide with a sawed-off shotgun, shooting himself in the head in front of about a dozen children.
The man's motive remained unclear and his identity was not immediately made known, though the police did say he was around 50 years old.
The school caters to children from nursery to high school age, according to preliminary news reports, and is on the city's Left Bank near the fashionable Rue Cler and close to landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Hôtel des Invalides.
The incident stunned many in the usually tranquil neighborhood as parents and police officers converged on the school. French news channels showed video of a shocked-looking child who said the man shot himself.
"Every one is shocked," Anne Hidalgo, a deputy to the Paris mayor, said on television. The authorities sent a team of psychological counselors to the school.
Vincent Peillon, the education minister, returned to Paris quickly from a European Union ministerial meeting in Brussels, and visited the school, saying that no children had been directly threatened and that there was no cause to criticize the security arrangements there.
But some parents questioned how the man could have entered the school. "The doors are closed and secure. I know that you really need to introduce yourself at the entrance so to get in and collect the children. You can't just go in as you wish," said a mother, who gave her name only as Lucie, according to The Associated Press.
News reports said the man lived in the neighborhood where the school is and had entered its courtyard just before noon as children had finished morning classes. He shot himself after pushing past two school employees who challenged him, the reports said.
Bernard Boucault, the prefect of police in Paris, told reporters the intruder had no known links to the school.
The Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, said in a statement that he wanted to support "all the little Parisians" present during the episode.
Rachida Dati, the mayor of the Seventh Arrondissement, said that the school gates were open only because it was lunchtime and that children who witnessed the shooting were either on their way home or heading to the school canteen.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.