RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Gunmen killed three doctors and wounded a fourth in a gangland-style hit while the men were at a beachside eatery early Thursday in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
The fact that one victim was the brother of a federal lawmaker led to immediate speculation — including from Brazil’s justice minister — that it may have been a politically motivated assassination. However, a report from television network Globo later Thursday said authorities’ main line of investigation is that the hit was a case of mistaken identity, with one of the targets confused for the son of a local militia group.
Security camera footage obtained by local newspaper O Globo showed a group of black-clad gunmen emerging from a car and running up to the victims’ beachside table in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood and opening fire before making their escape. The entire incident lasted less than 30 seconds.
The men were in town from Sao Paulo for an international orthopedics conference and lawmaker Sâmia Bomfim’s brother was among the three killed. The fourth doctor was wounded and brought to a hospital, according to a statement from Rio state’s civil police, adding that its homicide department is investigating who was responsible for the attack and its motive.
Brazilian Justice Minister Flávio Dino said Thursday morning he was tasking the Federal Police with joining the investigation in light of the hypothesis it may have been motivated by the actions of federal lawmakers. Bomfim is married to another lawmaker, Glauber Braga.
“After these immediate initial steps, we will legally analyze the case. My solidarity with congresswoman Sâmia, congressman Glauber and their families,” Dino wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Bomfim and Braga belong to the same leftist party as former Rio city councillor, Marielle Franco, who was gunned down in 2018. Five years later, that case remains unsolved, and Dino said in July that it appears her killing is tied to militias and organized crime that control vast swaths of the city.
Militias that emerged in the 1990s originally were made up mainly of former police officers, firefighters and military men who wanted to combat lawlessness in their neighborhoods, both petty crime and sophisticated drug trafficking. They charged residents not just for security, but for internet, electricity and transport, and more recently diversified into real estate and even drug trafficking themselves.
The groups now control roughly 10% of Rio’s metropolitan area, according to a study last year by non-profit Fogo Cruzado and a security-focused research group at the Fluminense Federal University.
Barra da Tijuca is a sprawling beachside neighborhood known for its high-rise apartments, south of the better-known Leblon and Ipanema beaches. Ariel Dimarco, an Argentine doctor attending the same conference with his wife, said they were surprised and shocked to awaken and hear the news. They had eaten at the same spot three hours before the killing.
“We thought it was a calm area, and now with what happened we’re going to need to have more precaution, more care,” Dimarco, 51, said in a short interview beside the crime scene.
The outdoor eatery where the men were killed is across the street from their hotel. They had paid their bill and were preparing to leave before the gunmen arrived, O Globo reported the business owner as saying.
On X, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expressed “great sadness and indignation at the news of the execution.”
Source : apnews