By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Parishioners at Nossa Senhora da Paz (Our Lady of Peace) Church in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, were startled by an armed gunman who fled into the Catholic Church on Sunday during mass, taking a hostage. The gunman, who had just robbed a pharmacy two blocks away and exchanged gunfire with police officers, stormed into the Church in the middle of afternoon mass.
According to one witness interviewed by local newspaper, O Globo, the assailant walked right up to the pulpit and threatened Father Jose Ricardo dos Santos Pastura with a gun. Police officers followed the man into the Church and were able to help worshipers leave.
The gunman was convinced to let the priest go and took another hostage, identified as Eduardo Amaral, whom witnesses said helps out at the Church. “I think he mistook me for a priest, and took me by mistake,” Amaral told reporters after being released.
The police quickly blocked off several roads in the Ipanema neighborhood to traffic as hostage negotiators tried to convince the assailant to surrender. The stand-off between the gunman and police lasted more than 2.5 hours. A little after 7PM the gunman surrendered.
According to police the assailant, along with two partners, were robbing a pharmacy near the Church when they were surprised by police. Police say that as the three tried to escape, one of them, identified by TV news network Globonews as Carlos Alberto de Souza, 29, sought refuge in the Church. The two other assailants fled, according to police.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.