Police shot and killed nine people in a house in Rio. Investigators want to know if it was justified, or an execution.
At dawn on Feb. 8 police surrounded the Rio de Janeiro favela of Fallet following days of shooting between rival drug factions. Hiding in the community were members of Rio’s most powerful drug gang who had been defending the territory from invading rival factions. By noon, 13 would be dead. Family members say the men surrendered to police and were executed. Authorities say the killing was legitimate.
On Monday Investigators traveled to a house in the community where police killed nine of the alleged traffickers. They walked through the crime scene with members of the special operations Choque battalion who were responsible for the shootings, trying to ascertain what exactly happened on that day. The recreation took over 7 hours. The same unit that killed the traffickers, the Choque Battalion, provided security.
Paulo Roberto Mello Cunha of Rio’s District Attorney’s Office said that the objective was to conduct a simulation with the seven police that were involved in what happened on the day of the killings. “What we find from this reconstruction will be analyzed in conjunction with the statements from the police who said there was an exchange of shooting, and we will see if there Is any incompatibility in the statements,” Cunha told the Rio Times.
Questions about the shooting surfaced almost immediately when local residents insisted that the alleged traffickers – all between the ages of 14-22 – surrendered to police and were then tortured and executed. “I know those boys may have been breaking the law, but independent of what wrong they have done, it is not up to the police to just decide to kill them,” said a woman related to one of the dead men.
According to a report by crime scene investigators over 250 shell casing were found at the house including several from firearms not utilized by Brazilian police. The report stated that this is an indication that there was an exchange of gunshots and that it signals “the participation of agents of a criminal organization in the event.”
Police said that with the traffickers they found two rifles and 11 pistols as well as a small quantity of marijuana.
Four other individuals were killed in the same operation but in different areas of the community.
Rio’s Governor Wilson Witzel stated at the time that the operation was legitimate and congratulated the police involved.
“You have a situation where [the criminals] are surrounded, and they have to turn themselves in. But that isn’t what happens. The criminals here in Rio de Janeiro are, in a certain form, trained by terrorism. They are not ready to turn themselves in. They are guided by a terrorist ideology of kill or be killed. This is the reality of organized crime in Rio de Janeiro,” Witzel told press shortly after the killings.
Rio elected Governor Witzel on a platform of empowering police to actively kill drug traffickers, who Witzel says is responsible for the violence in Rio de Janeiro. Several Brazilian human rights observers have said that this is giving police carte blanche for to kill whomever they choose.