By Henry Montalto, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Douglas Costa Leal, the founder of the shoe shiners’ “Mustard Gang” has been apprehended in Copacabana with six mustard packets in his underwear. Finally, your shoes are safe again from that smelly cheap mustard.

An action dreaded by all, the infamous mustard bomb: made by twisting the packets tightly and throwing them onto the sidewalk near people passing. All the shiner needs to say is “You have dirty shoes, I’ll clean them for you,” and just like that the money is in his pocket.

Typical mustard packets used in the attacks.

For Douglas Leal, it all went wrong somehow. As a result, he was caught at 11 AM, on Avenida Atlântica after being accused of trying to explode mustard packets on an English tourist’s shoes. For Leal, it was not the first but one of a few apprehensions in recent years. 

Even more, Douglas Costa Leal was arrested in 2014 and once in 2015 for theft of a cellphone in Ipanema beach. Police already wanted him for actions related to mustard bombings in Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana.

Douglas Costa Leal being arrested by police in Copacabana.

This technique has been gaining popularity across Rio de Janeiro, and the victims have mainly been tourists. When a gringo passes by, they get bombed by the shoe shiner, and he arrives to apparently “save their shoes” just in time.

The practice was relatively uncommon until about 2015. Soon videos and photos of attacks started showing up. As a result, hundreds of these attacks were recorded or photographed on WhatsApp and social media. Mustard bombing became rampant throughout the city in 2016.

English tourist Richard Kite reported that other residents who recognized Douglas Leal helped the mustard bomber. Richard Kite’s statement: “The man passed by and I felt something hit my leg and shoe, right after the man passed he quickly came and asked if I wanted a shoe shine. I couldn’t believe it.”

The tourist declined the service at first but eventually, Douglas Leal’s continued persuasion won out. Luckily, tourist Kite was able to signal for help when the mustard bomber was cleaning his shoes.

State Police have warned about these actions happening to residents and tourists in Rio de Janeiro’s South Zone. A police statement said that if you are a victim of this type of attack, immediately seek the police or municipal guard for help.

Do not support them by accepting their service after they commit a crime. Get help or say you have no money. Furthermore, if you feel threatened, do not risk your life for 5 or 10 Brazilian Reais, it’s not worth it.

There are many great and hard-working street vendors here in Rio de Janeiro. Most of whom have great foods and quality goods to sell. Unfortunately, those of the Mustard Gang do not. They only contribute to the bad reputation of the many working around the streets in Rio de Janeiro.

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