Police deny wrongdoing in Rio de Janeiro raid that left 25 dead
(Update 1: adds details from press conference, rewrites and edits throughout)
Rio de Janeiro, May 6 (EFE).- The Civil Police of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday rejected allegations of abuse and of carrying out extrajudicial executions in an operation in a Rio de Janeiro favela that left 25 dead, one of the state’s deadliest police raids.
Shooting began early Thursday, soon after 200 police entered Jacarezinho, an impoverished, crime-ridden favela (shantytown) on Rio’s north side, to arrest gang members.
Residents said they sheltered in their homes amid the sound of gunfire, explosions and police helicopters hovering over the neighborhood.
Official data indicates that one police officer and 24 suspects were killed in the operation. Five people – three officers, and two civilians hit by a stray bullet as they were traveling on a passing metro train – were injured.
In a long press conference in which the chiefs of the police stations responsible for the raid denied all accusations, they said the operation was authorized and supervised by the public ministry, and that it was aimed at dismantling a gang of drug traffickers who recruited minors.
Commissioner Rodrigo Oliveira said the “very well planned operation,” which complied with all protocols, was a result of 10 months of investigation. He denied there had been any extrajudicial executions.
According to the officers, during the investigation, police discovered that the gang that controls drug trafficking in Jacarezinho forced minors to commit crimes and imposed rules on neighbors, even authorizing or prohibiting relationships.
The police arrested six accused of drug trafficking and seized 16 pistols, six rifles, a machine gun, 12 grenades, a shotgun and ammunition.
Human Rights Watch demanded a thorough and independent investigation into possible police abuses.
Jacarezinho is reputed to a bastion of Comando Vermelho (Red Command), the most powerful drug outfit operating in Rio de Janeiro.
Gunfights involving gangs, police and the self-styled militias who battle the gangs to clear the field for their own criminal enterprises are common in the favelas of Brazil’s second-largest city.
Official data indicates that some 1,800 people died in police operations in Rio de Janeiro in 2019 and that number dropped to 1,300 victims in 2020, in part due to the Supreme Court’s decision to restrict operations like Thursday’s. EFE