Helicopter crash kills four police near Rio’s famed ‘City of God’ slum after day of heavy gunfire

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 12:29pm

A police helicopter crashed near one of Rio de Janeiro’s impoverished favela neighbourhoods on, killing four officers after a day of intense gunfire in the area, Brazilian police said.

“We do not yet have information on the causes, an investigation will be opened,” a police spokesman said, confirming that security forces had carried out operations earlier in the day in the Cidade de Deus favela near the site of the crash.

Video shot by witnesses and broadcast by Brazilian media showed the helicopter spinning out of control as it fell from the grey, late-afternoon sky near the City of God slum.

The crash followed a tense day of clashes with officers in the densely populated area, causing the flow on one of the city’s major highways to be cut off.

In a separate clip published by Brazilian news site UOL, the rumble of gunfire can be heard coming from the streets in the area.

Clashes occurred in the morning and again in the afternoon when drug traffickers blocked a street and set garbage and tires on fire, sources from the Police Pacification Unit (UPP), which was set up to restore order in Rio’s crime-ridden slums, told Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

An economic recession, rising unemployment and overstretched public finances have emboldened criminal groups in areas like City of God, one of the best known of the city’s so-called favelas, sprawling slums that stretch across vast suburbs and climb up the scenic hillsides of central Rio.

Since 2008, security forces have occupied several favelas that were in the hands of drug traffickers for 30 years and have also deployed the UPP in 264 impoverished, crime-hit neighborhoods housing more than a million people.

Although the areas are patrolled by around 10,000 officers, drug trafficking groups are pushing to regain control of some of the favelas.

Between January and October, 115 police officers were killed and 556 were injured in Rio state, most of them while they were off duty, official figures show.

Human Rights Watch released a report in July in which it counted more than 8,000 deaths of citizens at the hands of state police in the past decade. Among those, 645 were killed last year alone.

Additional reporting by Reuters