By Jay Forte and Tracy Woodley, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An attack by suspected gang members in the Complexo do Alemão favela community in Zona Norte (North Zone) resulted in the death of a police officer, the first to be killed in a pacified favela. Officer Fabiana Aparecida de Souza, age 30, at the Nova Brasília UPP (Police Pacification Unit) was fatally shot during a firefight Monday, July 23rd.
Officer de Souza, according to a report by O Globo, was on the second floor of the UPP headquarters on the radio for help, while assailants sprayed the building with automatic riffle fire.
She was hit in the chest according to reports, and the shot pierced the bulletproof vest she wore. While in route to the hospital Unidade de Pronto Atendimento (UPA), de Souza died from the injury.
Another policeman, still unidentified, was also injured in the attack, which happened at about 8:30PM. Half an hour earlier, officers had exchanged gunfire in a clash with bandits in the locality known as Pedra do Sapo, also in Complexo do Alemão.
Public relations officer Major Ivan Blaz, of the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), said early on Tuesday that the policiais militares (military police) will strengthen security with BOPE and Shock Battalion operations to try to find the criminals involved.
The open gun battles in the streets are a stark reminder of the turbulent months in 2010, when the city fell under attack by drug gangs based in Complexo do Alemão. The favela community of 70,000 residents was notorious for being one of the largest drug gang strongholds in Rio de Janeiro.
Different divisions of state and federal police joined armed forces on a 2,700 men strong coordinated assault on the favela in November 2010, a joint operation on a scale never before seen in Rio.
A year and a half later of occupation, Complexo do Alemão received their first UPP in April 2012, and the Brazilian Army’s Peace Force was finally transitioned out.
Complexo do Alemão has presented perhaps the biggest challenge in the pacification initiative that was launched in in 2008. However, as of July of this year, the government of Rio de Janeiro declared a 37 percent decrease in gunshot wound victims from the area since 2010.
A statement issued by the Secretary of State of Security (SESEG) of Rio de Janeiro offered condolences to the family of Officer De Souza and affirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring the capture of the perpetrators.
“Fabiana is the latest victim of high-powered rifles used by traffickers who are still resisting the pacification of Complexo de Alemão and Penha,” the statement said. “The peace process will follow its intended course in the region, until the reconquest of territory consolidated in these communities is completed and peace is returned to the city of Rio de Janeiro.”
Friends and family members made a video compilation honoring De Souza with photos of the officer throughout her career. A burial is scheduled for Wednesday, July 25th, at 9AM in the Cemitério do Riachuelo of Médio Paraíba.