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Father Murdered with Child in his Arms

Family blames police

RIO DE JANEIRO - A father holding his newborn baby was shot and killed in the Rio de Janeiro community of Rocinha. Hit in the abdomen; relatives say police were responsible. Bruised after falling, the child was otherwise uninjured.

 Deivison Farias de Sousa is the twelfth person killed in the last eight days in Rocinha. Relatives say that members of a special police unit called the Choque murdered de Souza during a patrol.

“The police weren’t engaging with criminals. There wasn’t any shooting going on. There was nothing. It was just them and the police from the Choque,” said Diego Farias do Mauro, brother of the victim. 

The police released a statement indicating that the Choque battalion was working in the area and that the patrol heard gunfire. The police deny being the source of any shooting and say that they only became aware that a man was injured well after the fact. The civil police are investigating where the shooting came from that killed de Souza.

The Choque battalion has come under scrutiny recently due to the high number of deaths involved in their operations. Just a week before the death of de Souza, the Choque shot and killed eight people in the community they say were associated with drug trafficking. Residents of Rocinha accused members of the Choque of stealing during searches earlier in the year. The thefts were investigated by the former commander of the unit and no police were charged.

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They are supposed to come into this community and protect the good working citizens but instead they come in and kill us.”

Brazil has a long history of police brutality going back to government-sanctioned death squads that operated during the military dictatorship. In recent years, as Brazil’s security situation worsens due to a lackluster economy and budget cuts to the police, there is fear that the motivation to pursue crimes by the police will be lacking. Meanwhile, as police are put into more dangerous situations - and often with their salaries being paid late or not at all - there is an increased likelihood of human rights violations committed by security personnel.

Accompanied by de Souza’s wife and daughter, do Mauro spoke about the police operations in the community. “They are cowards. They are supposed to come into this community and protect the good working citizens but instead they come in and kill us,” he said. “I’m not afraid to speak out either. I don’t care what they might try with my family. We are full of anger because they are supposed to protect life, not take it.”

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"I’m not afraid to speak out either. I don’t care what they might try with my family."