Rio police with a body shot from a helicopter

Footage of Rio de Janeiro police shooting at people from helicopters, then laughing among dead bodies, has drawn condemnation, offering further evidence that extrajudicial killings remain a serious issue in Brazil.

The first video, obtained by Globo television and published last week, shows a police helicopter chasing a convicted drug trafficker though the streets of the Coreia favela, one of Rio's largest slums. After the suspect gets into a car the helicopter opens fire, spraying the car as well as surrounding houses with bullets.

In the second video, obtained by newspaper Extra, also part of Globo's network, officers are seen firing on the Rola favela in the city's West Zone before laughing and congratulating each other amongst dead bodies in a bar. Another body in a house next door is moved to the bar when officers realize the victim was unarmed.

Five people died in total during the Rola operation, reported Extra, two of whom had no criminal record. All five deaths were recorded as "acts of resistance," a term used by police to describe a suspect's death during a confrontation with officers.

Rio police chief Martha Rocha said an investigation had been opened, while Brazil's Human Rights Minister, Maria do Rosario Nunes, condemned the actions and ordered Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral to hold those responsible to account. The government announced it would offer support to Rio state to abolish so-called "resistance" killings.

InSight Crime Analysis

Extrajudicial killings have long been an issue within Brazil's police force, most notoriously the killings of hundreds of street children revealed by Amnesty International in 1990. Official government statistics revealed in a 2009 investigation by US NGO Human Rights Watch showed more than 11,000 people had been killed by Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo police since 2003 - one death for every 23 people arrested in 2008, compared to the US police average of one death per 37,000 people arrested. Last month eight São Paulo police were arrested following the release of video footage showing the fatal shooting of two teenagers who had surrendered.

 

Investigations

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