Brazilian military open fire on family car, killing father

Nelson Almeida, AFP | Brazilian soldiers participate in the graduation ceremony and commemorate the 1964 military coup, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 28, 2019.

Brazilian soldiers opened fire on a family driving to a baby shower in Rio de Janeiro, riddling their vehicle with more than 80 bullets and killing one of the occupants, reports said Monday.


Ten army personnel have been arrested over Sunday's incident, which also wounded two others, on suspicion of "failure to comply with rules of engagement," the military said in a statement.

The soldiers patrolling the northern district of Guadalupe apparently mistook the white car as belonging to criminals, G1 reported, citing police.

Five people were inside the vehicle, including a seven-year-old boy, who was unhurt.

The soliders had been on the look-out for a car-load of criminals during a regular patrol of the area secured by the military, the military statement said.

Police also have launched an investigation into the incident, homicide police spokesman Leonardo Salgado told G1.

"Everything indicates that the military really confused the vehicle for a vehicle of robbers," Salgado said.

No weapons were found in the car, which belonged to "a normal family who ended up being victims of the military," he added.

"I don't see a legitimate defense for the number of shots."

In its statement, the military said it was committed to "transparency and legal parameters imposed by the rule of law on the legitimate use of force by its members" and opposed "excesses or abuses that may be committed when carrying out their activities."

Military role

The military's central role in Rio de Janeiro state security officially ended on December 31.

Former President Michel Temer took the drastic step of placing Rio security in the hands of the military, citing the police force's inability to control heavily armed drug gangs.

Army patrols had already been used in the impoverished favelas but the military intervention saw generals replace civilian authorities in top security jobs, as well as an increase in the use of soldiers to back up police.

The intervention was unheard of after the country's return to democracy in 1985 ended 21 years of military rule.

Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took power in January, has promised to take a hard line against criminals -- a sentiment echoed by the newly elected Rio state governor Wilson Witzel.

In Witzel's first two months in office, 305 people were killed by police, according to government statistics, or one such death every four and a half hours.

That is a 17.6 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018, and a record high for the 16 years that statistics on police-involved killings have been kept.

Witzel recently told local media that snipers had been deployed in the city.


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