By C.H. Gardiner
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last month, soldiers from the Army’s 1st Motorized Infantry Battalion were advised that a white sedan was conducting robberies in the area of Guadalupe in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro.
In the days before, two military vehicles driving in the area had been shot at by suspected traffickers. According to witnesses, when a motorized patrol came across a white sedan matching the description, the soldiers opened fire. But that was the wrong vehicle: inside the car was a family of four.
The shooting left two innocent people dead, and nine of the soldiers involved in the killing have been held in military detention since. On Saturday, Brazil’s military courts accepted charges against all twelve men moving the case on step closer to a trial.
Court documents list the charges against the soldiers as double homicide, attempted homicide, and a failure to provide aid.
The accusation presented by Military Justice Prosecutors Najla Nassif Palma and Andrea Blumm Ferreira affirmed that “no weapons or other objects associated with criminality were found with the victims.”
A crime scene investigation conducted following the shooting indicated that the twelve soldiers fired 257 times with 62 rounds hitting the family’s car.
The gunfire killed musician Evaldo Rosa who was returning from visiting a friend with his family.
Also hit non-fatally was Sergio Goncalves de Araujo, Rosa’s father in law. Directly after the shooting witnesses say that Luciano Macedo, a junk collector, rushed to the aid of those inside the vehicle when he too was shot. Macedo would later die at the hospital after several days in a coma.
The staggered timing between the when Rosa and Macedo were shot would seem to indicate that the shooting happened in multiple stages. First with the soldiers opening fire on the vehicle and then later when Macedo attempted to provide aid.
According to Minister Maria Elizabeth Guimarães Teixeira Rocha of Brazil’s Supreme Military Court, the officer in charge of the truck, 2nd Lt. Italo da Silva Nunes, shot 77 times. The standard magazine for Brazil’s armed forces contains between 20 to 30 rounds indicating that he would have had to reload at least twice between volleys.
In documents presented to the court, the military prosecutors stated that the soldiers failed to follow the rules of engagement and violated standard operating procedures regarding the application of violence.
The prosecutors wrote that “there was a significant failure to establish a progressive escalation of force, or to take precautions that the weapons used would not hit innocents.”
Many Brazilians see the killings as an example of the arbitrary nature with which authorities kill in the name of keeping the peace.
Several organizations and NGO’s have held protests against the escalation of what they say is state-sanctioned violence. Statistics provided by Rio’s Institute of Public Security show that 2019 has seen the most killings by authorities in more than two decades.