RIO DE JANEIRO — Fear and confusion swept the streets of Copacabana on Tuesday after residents of a nearby slum, protesting the death of a local man, swarmed the streets of one of the Brazilian city’s most famous beach neighborhoods.
Streets and a road tunnel were closed during the protest, and another area man was shot and later died. Residents of the Pavao-Pavaozinho slum, or favela, blamed both deaths on police.
Police said they are investigating.
Coming less than two months before the World Cup kickoff, and just weeks after the Brazilian military entered the Mare slum in north Rio, the protests and deaths focused yet more attention on Rio’s deteriorating security situation and the violent tactics police employ in its dangerous slums.
The body of Douglas Pereira, 26, was found in a day-care center in the favela Tuesday morning. Local news media said an autopsy revealed a puncture wound. Pereira’s mother, Maria da Silva, 56, has said she believes that her son was tortured and killed by police.
The O Globo newspaper reported Wednesday that police said Pereira had been shot and are investigating his death.
Pereira was a dancer in the Bonde Da Madrugada troupe, which appears regularly on a popular Brazilian TV show, “Esquenta” (“Warm-up”). He was hugely popular in the favela, residents said, and was seen as a positive role model in the desperately poor community.
Pereira had also appeared in a short film, playing a favela resident shot and killed by police.
His death is being compared to the iconic death of Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer from the nearby Rocinha favela who disappeared last year. Twenty-five officers from the UPP (Pacifying Police Unit) in Rocinha were charged with involvement in de Souza’s killing, sparking protests last year.
Alzira Amaral, 56, president of Pavao-Pavaozinho’s residents association, said community members think police killed Pereira.
Carolina Santos, 29, lives by the square that adjoins the day-care center where Pereira’s body was found. She said that at about 2 a.m. Tuesday, the power went off.
“I heard shouting: ‘I am a worker,’ and the police shouting, ‘Shut your mouth. If not we are going to kill you.’ ” She said she then heard a sound like a shot, or a person falling. Santos said she looked out her window and saw a police officer climbing a lamppost that overlooked the day-care center where Pereira’s body was found. “I didn’t see any more,” she said. “I was scared and I went inside.”
Felipe Lima, 17, who said he is Pereira’s cousin, said Pereira was on a balcony above the square when police shot at him. “He jumped because he was scared the police would come and get him and do something worse,” he said.
Police said officers had investigated an exchange of shots about 3 a.m. at a different point, much higher up in the hillside favela. “They retreated,” said Col. Frederico Caldas, coordinator of the Rio UPP. “There was no register of people injured.”
The next morning, police entered Pavao-Pavaozinho at 10:30 a.m. and found Pereira, having been told that there was a body in the day-care center , Caldas said. As they began to remove the body at 5 p.m. Tuesday, residents began to close in.
“Our bases were hit with rocks, with bottles, with pieces of wood,” Caldas said. “Cars were burnt and access points as well. Policing needed to be reinforced all around.”
Residents brought a wounded man to police during the protest, but he later died, Caldas said. “There is no register of shots exchanged,” he said. “He was brought here and here the police helped him.”
Local media identified the man as Edilson dos Santos, 27.
Caldas said that in both killings, police officers reported firing no shots.
Referring to dos Santos’s death, Caldas said, “He probably was hit by a stray bullet, the result of these shots fired by marginal elements.”