Posthumous Innocence Thanks to Mobile-Recorded Video

Chauan Cezário, one of the Military Police victims, in a Rio police station. Photo by Urbano Erbiste/O Globo
Chauan Cezário, one of the Military Police victims, in a Rio police station. Photo by Urbano Erbiste/O Globo

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For the original in Portuguese, published in El País, click here.

The Military Police said the youth shot at the officers but the video recorded by the victim contradicts this version of events.

Shoot first. Ask questions later. That’s how a group of police officers carrying out a raid in the favela of Palmerinha north of Rio de Janeiro acted on Saturday night when they killed a 15 year old boy and injured another, 19 years old, with a bullet to the chest. Until last Wednesday afternoon, the official version from the police was that four criminals were shooting at an armored Military Police vehicle patrolling the area. In other words it was a case of self-defence or death on duty. However, the film made on the mobile phone of the young boy who was killed contradicts this claim and shows that the police shot at the group of four friends at least 10 times for no reason at all.

In the video, a little over nine minutes long and published on Rio Consciente, there are four young community residents sitting on their bicycles chatting and telling jokes. They were all unarmed. Shortly after the first minute of the film you can tell the boys started to run and then shots were heard. Suddenly the boy who was filming, Alan de Souza Lima (15 years old) fell and started to moan in pain. He was shot twice in the abdomen. The video does not show who shot him nor do you see him get shot, although it is possible to hear the officers asking why the boys were running. They replied that they had just been joking around. Lima died at the scene.

In the background Chauan Jambre Cezário (19 years old), who was shot by a bullet to the chest, prays, “Father in heaven. Help me Jesus.” An evangelical, he speaks to God the entire time. Meanwhile women curse the police and ask the kids to get out of the streets. The mood in the favela was heavy and some residents held protests over the weekend, burning vehicles and blocking roads running by the favela, including Avenida Brasil.

The about-face made on the case only happened on Thursday, after the video was released, when Military Police Commander Colonel Alberto Pinheiro Neto determined that the nine officers involved would be investigated by internal affairs. It is suspected that the officers created a false crime scene by planting two guns saying they belonged to the victims. This is common practice in the Military Police force, regardless of which state, as revealed by El País on February 8. On Friday, lieutenant-colonel Luiz Garcia Baptista, the commander of the 9th Battalion where the officers work, was relieved of his duties.

The names of the nine Military Police Officers who were part of this disastrous action in Palmerinha have not been disclosed. They have had their weapons seized and are under investigation by internal affairs.

Cezário, who is black, was hospitalized for three days and upon his discharge was arrested on charges of illegal possession of arms. He is only free because he managed to have the judge’s decision overturned with a writ of habeas corpus. During an interview for TV Bandeirantes, he said that he was not carrying any weapon and that his friend Lima had died without having done anything.

Rio de Janeiro was the Brazilian state in which the Military Police killed the most citizens in alleged confrontations in 2013. In 2014 it came second only to São Paulo, and in January this year alone 64 people were killed. On average more than one person is being killed each day.