2 police arrested after tourist shot to death in Rio slum
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Two military police officers have been arrested in connection with the shooting death of a Spanish tourist who was on a guided tour of one of Brazil’s largest slums, an official said Tuesday.
Police said Maria Esperanza Jimenez Ruiz was shot in the neck on Monday when the vehicle she was traveling in failed to stop at a police checkpoint in Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha neighborhood. The 67-year-old was taken to a hospital but died from her injuries.
Officers said they couldn’t see inside the car because it had darkly tinted windows, according to Fabio Cardoso, an inspector with the civil police force, which investigates crimes. The driver has said he never saw the checkpoint or a request to stop.
“I want to be clear that a car not following a police order does not justify shooting,” Cardoso told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
He said that Lt. Davi dos Santos Ribeiro fired the fatal shot and was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. A judge later released Ribeiro pending trial, saying he had an “immaculate record” and that there was no evidence that he would commit a crime if released. Ribeiro will be barred from performing all but administrative duties.
Cardoso said another officer, who has not been named, shot into the air and was also arrested. It was unclear if he was still in custody late Tuesday. Six firearms have been seized.
Mayor Marcelo Crivella called the death a tragedy but an exception, saying that “the rule is good police officers.” Human rights groups, however, say Rio’s police force is exceptionally deadly. In May, Amnesty International said killings at the hands of police in Rio had risen nearly 80 percent in the first two months of this year, as compared to last year. In 2015, police were responsible for one in every five murders in Rio, the group says.
Jimenez Ruiz, who is from El Puerto de Santa Maria, was with her brother and sister-in-law and a guide as they left the Rocinha slum after a tour, Cardoso said. After the shots were fired, the car continued for about 30 meters (yards) before stopping at another police checkpoint, at which point the passengers realized Jimenez Ruiz had been hit.
Rocinha has been the scene of intense firefights between police and drug traffickers. The army has even occasionally been called in to support police operations.
Authorities say they are investigating why a tour company would bring tourists to what they have labeled a “conflict area” and will consider pressing criminal charges.
Valeria Aragao, an inspector with the tourism police, has said that the tourists may have thought the heavy police presence in Rocinha meant it was safe, when it actually signals just the opposite.
For years, tourist visits to slums, or favelas, were common. Many of the areas are culturally and architecturally rich, and include top samba schools, musicians and artists. However, amid Brazil’s economic crisis in recent years and an uptick in violence, visits to favelas have become much less frequent.
Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.