Rio de Janeiro, Feb 11 (EFE).- Already under scrutiny by Brazil’s Supreme Court, the Rio de Janeiro state police killed eight people Friday during an operation here to capture a reputed drug kingpin who has eluded capture for the better part of a year.
The force’s Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) moved into Vila Cruzeiro, a favela (shantytown) on the north side of Rio city, before dawn in search of suspects who fled from the neighboring favela of Jacarezinho during a raid last month.
“When the teams arrived they were received with gunfire, but we managed to advance,” BOPE commander Uira do Nascimento said. “We had a confrontation with the criminals. They were all armed and resisted the action of the police.”
Officers seized seven long guns, four hand guns and 14 grenades, as well as illegal drugs and stolen vehicles, he said.
The sweep came a week after the Supreme Court gave the Rio state government 90 days to adopt measures to reduce violence by the state police, who killed nearly 1,300 people between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2021.
Vila Cruzeiro residents hunkered down in their homes as police and suspects traded shots with armored vehicles on the streets and helicopters hovering over the favela.
The battle forced the closure of businesses, hospitals and the neighborhood’s 17 schools serving 5,640 students.
The main objective of the raid was Chico Bento, ostensibly a high-ranking figure in Comando Vermelho (Red Command), the largest criminal organization in Rio de Janeiro.
Bento and his top lieutenants are thought to have taken refuge in Vila Cruzeiro when the BOPE occupied Jacarezinho.
Last May, an attempt to apprehend Bento in Jacarezinho resulted in 28 deaths and a subsequent probe found that many of those people were shot execution-style after they had already surrendered.
Data from the state government indicate that police for account of nearly a quarter of all homicides in the jurisdiction.
While killings not involving law enforcement officers declined by 8 percent in Rio state in 2021, civilian deaths at the hands of police increased 12 percent.
In its ruling last week, the Brazilian Supreme Court ordered the Rio de Janeiro state police to restrict the execution of search and arrest warrants to daylight hours.
The court also instructed the state government to issue body-cameras to all police officers and install GPS trackers on their official vehicles. EFE cm/dr