By Julia Averbuck, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On the night of Thursday, September 13th, military policeman Diego Bruno Barbosa Henriques was shot and killed in Rocinha while doing his rounds on foot. In a rash of violence some associate to the impending arrival of the UPP (Police Pacification Unit), this is now the second policeman killed in Rocinha this year.
Henriques and three other policemen were patrolling an area known as Terreirão, when Henriques ran into two armed drug traffickers in an alley. The attackers have been identified as Ronaldo de Azevedo Oliveira da Cunha, who is 24 years-old, and Rafael da Silva Barros, who is eighteen.
On Saturday, the Homicide Division of the Military Police, responsible for investigating the case, searched Rocinha with forty men to look for the accused shooters without any success. Barros was finally found and arrested on Monday morning by policemen of 14th District (Leblon), after his parents called in his hiding location, an overpass in Botafogo.
Henriques, who was 25 years-old, had joined the military police in November of 2011 and had just concluded his training in August. He was engaged to be married with his girlfriend of eight years, Hellen Teixeira dos Santos, in the following weeks.
On Saturday, the police experienced another attack in Rocinha, when an empty patrol car was struck with a homemade bomb known as a Molotov Cocktail. The police have stated that the attacks were unrelated to the Thursday murder and were a reaction to an arrest made that night.
The favela community of Rocinha has been occupied by the police forces since the November 2011 large-scale operation. Now the new UPP instillation is scheduled for inauguration this Thursday, September 20th, along with a reported 700-officer force.
In spite of both attacks this weekend, many community members have said that the occupation has been an positive change. According to Rosaria Guimarães da Silva, who has lived in Rocinha for over ten years, the occupation “improved her life by ninety percent” and she is looking forward to the UPP operations.
Community member Vivian Oliveira da Silva, also agrees that the development have been positive. “Life is different, safer, happier, when you don’t have to live with fifteen year-olds carrying guns everyday.”
When asked if either them had attended any of the community meetings geared towards the residents as the police prepare for the 28th UPP of Rio in Rocinha, both women complained that although they would have liked to, meetings are always held during the workday.
Three other policemen were also killed in Rio this weekend. Brigadier Paulo Antonio da Costa, of the Battalion for Special Police Operations, popularly known as BOPE, was shot and killed during a robbery in Nova Iguaçu on Friday morning.
Sargent Luiz Alberto Tavares, of the 21st Battalion of the Military Police (São João do Meriti) was executed by two men in a motor cycle when he was arriving home on Friday night after having received an homage at work.
Third-Sargent Paulo Cesar de Lima Junior, of the Shock Battalion of the Military Police, was shot in the groin during a confrontation in the Morro da Coroa, in the UPP of Catumbi, in the Centro area of Rio, and passed away from his wounds the following day. Two other policemen were also shot during this operation.
Prior to July 23rd of this year, when policewoman Fabiana Aparecida da Souza was shot and killed in the Complexo do Alemão Favela, no police officer had been killed in a pacified favela.