Sun, Apr 03, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Police suspected in Rio rampage

`BARBARIC' After two gunmen killed 30 in a murderous spree, the main suspects so far are corrupt police officers thought to have acted in retaliation

AP , RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

A body of a man who was killed lies on the ground in a street in Nova Iguacu early Friday morning, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At least 28 people including women, children and men were gunned down in Nova Iguacu and Queimados, suburbs of Rio de Janeiro on Thursday night. Marcelo Itagiba, Rio's public security secretary, said he suspected military police were involved in the massacre.

PHOTO: AP

Police have released composite sketches of two suspects in the rampage killing of 30 people, while families buried the victims amid sobs and cries for justice. Rogue police were the main suspects.

The slayings took place over the course of about an hour Thursday night in the poor, squalid suburbs of Nova Iguacu and Queimados on the outskirts of this city.

The killings were shockingly brutal even for this city, which has one of the world's highest murder rates, and where massacres occur with disturbing frequency. The death toll was higher than the 1993 Vigario Geral police massacre of 10 people.

On Friday evening, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issued a statement calling the killings "barbarous and cowardly."

"The government will spare no effort together with state and municipal authorities to find and punish those responsible for this crime," the statement read.

Justice Minster Thomas Bastos, announced that federal police would provide all the necessary support to state police investigating the crime.

"It is no consolation, but what we can say about this crime is that it will not go unpunished," Bastos told reporters in Brasilia, the nation's capital.

Bastos said that it was too early to say with certainty that the killings were carried out by corrupt police who had formed an extermination squad, as state officials were insisting.

"We must follow all lines of investigation," Bastos said.

Early Friday, Rio de Janeiro state security secretary Marcelo Itagiba said the crime was most likely the work of police disgruntled over the arrest of eight officers caught on video dumping two bodies.

But many here said that could not explain or justify the killing of so many, including five adolescents and one woman.

"The state is guilty. All this over eight police being arrested?" asked Sandro Alves de Paulo, a 35-year-old electrician, whose 14-year-old son Douglas was among the victims.

According to witnesses, at around 10pm the gunmen got out of a silver Volkswagen and fired on the crowd at a street-corner bar. Fifteen people were found dead in and around the bar and three more victims died of their injuries in the hospital Friday.

The gunmen, perhaps joined by a second car, then cruised to the nearby Queimados neighborhood where they killed an additional 12 people in two separate shootings.

Roger Ancillotti, chief of the police forensics unit, said most of the victims had been shot in the head, neck or chest, suggesting a highly professional job.

"They were firing out the windows as they left so no one would look at them," said a resident who would only identify himself as Joao.

The youngest victim was 13-year-old Felipe Soares Carlos, who had just returned from school.

"He went out to play with his friends and minutes later I heard shots," said his 17-year-old sister, Priscila. "I went out and saw a lot of bodies stretched out on the street and then I saw my brother. I touched him and his eyes rolled over and I knew he was dead."

Sobbing and angrily demanding justice, families of the victims flocked to the Austin Cemetery in Nova Iguacu for the funerals that began late Friday. Many held up pictures of their slain relatives.

"He went to get cigarettes. I heard shots and went to see what happened. My son was dead," said Rosa Maria Silva, whose 19-year-old son Jonas was among the victims.

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