Rio police promise 'thorough probe' of dancer's death
- 24 April 2014
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
The top security official in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro has said there will be a thorough investigation into the death of a young dancer that triggered clashes in a poor neighbourhood of the city on Tuesday.
Jose Maria Beltrame said the authorities would proceed "with the utmost rigour and transparency".
A man was later shot dead in violence that lasted for several hours.
The clashes came weeks before Brazil is to host the football World Cup.
Mr Beltrame, who is Rio's Public Safety Director, said at a news conference that the investigation would explore all possible theories in the death of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira.
He condemned "speculation'' about what happened to Mr Pereira, whose body was discovered on Tuesday in a day-care centre in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela.
Angry residents marched to a local police station on Tuesday evening, blaming officers for Mr Pereira's death.
In the subsequent clashes, a man was shot dead, cars were torched and hundreds of residents were unable to return to their homes as protesters blocked roads with burning barricades.
Officials said on Wednesday that the 26-year-old dancer had been killed by a bullet, contradicting an earlier version that stated he had died from a fall.
According to some residents, he had been trying to flee from a shoot-out between police and drug dealers and had climbed over a wall to hide in the day-care centre.
His body was covered in wounds and his family have accused police of "torturing" him, saying that some of the marks on his body could only stem from severe kicks.
Mr Beltrame confirmed that 10 officers had been sent to the area on Monday night to search for a known drug dealer. He said the officers had been shot at and had returned fire.
The officers' guns had been confiscated, he added, so that it could be established if they had fired the shot that killed Mr Pereira.
Forensic scientists say the shot went through his chest, although according to the authorities no bullet has so far been found in the area where he lay.
Mr Beltrame said that if there was any indication that police were linked to this death, swift action would be taken.
Pavao-Pavaozinho is one of the poor neighbourhoods of Rio that has been part of a police "pacification" programme, in which the security forces move into an area in an effort to wrest control from the drug traffickers who run it.
It is an attempt by the city authorities to drive the heavily armed gangs away from the communities and restore police authority ahead of the football World Cup in June and July.
Pavao-Pavaozinho is one of the most central of all the city's favelas.
Built on a steep hillside, it overlooks Copacabana beach. It is also near one of the key venues for the 2016 Olympic Games which Rio is hosting.
Copacabana business owners said they feared the clashes could drive away potential visitors and tarnish the image of the area.