Brazilian military fired upon by drug dealers after taking wrong turn into Rio slum
“They were three officers with the National Force who accidently went into the Vila do Joao community. Their car was hit by drug traffickers’ [gunfire],” AFP quoted a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity.
The shootout took place on Wednesday evening on the outskirts of Vila do Joao favela in northern Rio’s Maré complex near the city’s international airport. The officers, who had been sent to Rio for the games and weren’t familiar with the city, were heading to the Olympic Park. They tried to access the Yellow Line which leads there, but missed their entrance and instead were forced to take a nearby street, where they were met by gunfire.
Members of a local drug gang apparently took the appearance of a police car for a raid and fired at the officers with rifles before fleeing into the warren of the shantytown, Folha de S.Paulo reports citing witnesses.
Viatura da força nacional / Rio foi metralhada por bandidos. Pelo menos um policial morreu e outro gravemente ferido pic.twitter.com/f33EHweWZn— Doutor Segurança (@jorgelordello) August 10, 2016
The officers were given first aid by locals and a passing taxi driver before army soldiers arrived to take care of them. Onlookers posted photographs from the scene online, in which bullet holes and blood stains can be seen on the police car’s doors and shattered windows.
One of the officers sustained minor injuries and another was merely grazed. The third, Helio Vieira, was hospitalized in critical condition. Initial reports claimed that Vieira had died of his wounds at the hospital, but Brazil’s justice minister, Alexandre de Moraes, denied those reports late on Wednesday.
“One of the police [officers] was shot in the head and underwent surgery and is now under observation. Another officer was shot but not seriously hurt,” a statement from the Justice Ministry said, as quoted by UOL.
The minister also called an emergency meeting with all major representatives of Rio’s security forces to discuss taking possible action in the Maré complex. He told the media that two of the attackers have already been identified.
“I will not undertake any action for now. We have launched an intelligence operation and so far identified two people who took part in this attack,” the minister said. Rio’s security secretary, federal police, the military, and PRF (Federal Highway Police) are all to take part in the investigation.
“It is an unfortunate and cowardly attack on the National Force [officers] who merely took a wrong turn,” he added.
Police in Rio often conduct operations against drug dealers who live in and control the city’s gigantic shanty community, where exchanges of gunfire are an everyday occurrence. The Maré complex in Rio’s north is considered to be one of the largest and most dangerous favelas in the city.
The officers who came under fire on Wednesday were part of a 5,000-strong contingent of federal reinforcements that was gathered from all over Brazil to help provide security at the Olympic Games, which began in Rio last Friday. Brazilian authorities have deployed an unprecedented 85,000 soldiers and officers to secure the games, twice the number that was responsible for protecting the London Games four years ago. One of the main concerns is the criminal situation in Rio, where murders, gun battles, and muggings are an everyday reality.