Ten members of Brazil’s military were under arrest Monday after soldiers fired 80 shots at a car carrying a family, killing a 46-year-old man and stirring outrage in the country.
Evaldo dos Santos Rosa was driving Sunday to a baby shower with his 7-year-old son, his wife, her stepfather and another woman when soldiers started shooting at them, according to relatives. The stepfather and a passerby who was trying to help were injured but the rest of the family was unharmed.
The military initially said in a statement that the soldiers had responded to gunfire from attackers. But police said no arms were found in the car and the military eventually changed its statement.
“All evidence point to a homicide,” police investigator Leonardo Salgado told TV news Globo after inspecting the site.
On Monday, the military said soldiers patrolling the area mistook Dos Santos Rosa’s car for that of criminals.
“Due to inconsistencies between the facts initially reported and other information later received by the eastern military command, we determined the immediate removal of the military (members) involved,” the armed forces said in statement. Ten of the 12 men questioned by investigators were under arrest.
Luciana Dos Santos, the victim’s wife, went to the morgue Monday to identify her husband’s body. In tears, shock, Dos Santos told reporters her 7-year-old thought his father was still alive.
“My God, why did the (soldiers) do this?” Dos Santos said, almost struggling to breathe.
“Murderers, that’s what they are,” said Dos Santos’ sister Deborah outside the forensic institute. “It’s like the governor said: Kill first and then see. And that’s what they did: First they killed and then they went to see that it was a father, that there was a family inside, that there was a kid inside.”
“This can’t keep happening. We want justice,” the victim’s 29-year-old son, Daniel, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Brazil has the largest number of annual homicides in the world and new President Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to unleash security forces to battle rampant violence. But the armed forces have long been criticized for extra-judicial killings, especially in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In 2018, the police killed 1,534 people in the state, according to government data.