RIO DE JANEIRO – The occupants of the vehicle that was fired upon by Brazilian police in a Rio de Janeiro shantytown, or “favela,” killing a Spanish tourist, contradicted the Militarized Police version that the auto “broke the police blockade” and denied that there was any kind of checkpoint established in the area.
The brother and the sister-in-law of Maria Esperanza Ruiz Jimenez, along with the vehicle’s Italian driver and their Brazilian guide, gave statements on Monday to Rio Civil Police, contradicting the version provided by the Militarized Police, authorities said.
“The people who were in the car didn’t see any checkpoint or (hear) any police order to stop. We are investigating to learn the details of the circumstances, to know why they fired” on the vehicle, the head of the Civil Police Homicide Division, Fabio Cardoso, told reporters.
He added that “the vehicle left the tourists down in the favela and waited and when it received the call from the guide to go and find them, the driver (did so). ... Without encountering any police checkpoint, they heard shots and then they saw that Maria had been hit by a bullet in the neck.”
The 67-year-old Spanish tourist was taken in the same vehicle to the Miguel Couto Hospital in southern Rio, where she died.
The incident occurred near Largo dos Boiadeiros, a bustling business district in the lower part of Rocinha, where for the past month-and-a-half an open turf war has been under way among rival drug trafficking gangs that the authorities are trying to keep under control with the presence of army troops.
According to the Militarized Police, the vehicle in which Rodriguez Jimenez was riding “broke the police blockade” in the area, whereupon officers opened fire.
Cardoso said that the Civil Police conducted an investigation at the scene and inside the vehicle. “There were two bullet holes, one in the window and the other in the bumper,” he added.
The police are investigating to determine what caliber bullets hit the vehicle.
The two Militarized Police officers accused of firing on the vehicle were detained and taken to the force’s jail in Niteroi, in the Rio metro area.
The head of the Civil Police’s Tourist Attention Department, Valeria Aragăo, said that the tourists knew they were in a favela but they thought that since the authorities had “pacified” it they would be safe, particularly since there were police on the streets in the area.
According to official figures, Rio experiences an average of a shooting every two hours and since January more than 4,000 people have died violently in the city, including more than 100 police officers.