Rio family buries girl killed by stray bullet; police blamed

International

An uncle of 8-year-old Ágatha Sales Félix shouts and cries during her burial at the cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. Félix was hit by a stray bullet Friday amid what police said was a shootout with suspected criminals. However, residents say there was no shootout, and blame police. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — An 8-year-old girl who was killed by a stray bullet in a Rio de Janeiro shantytown was buried on Sunday amid allegations that she was hit by police fire.

Several hundred people attended the funeral of Ágatha Sales Félix, who died Friday after she was shot in the back while riding in a van in the Complexo do Alemao slum.

Some mourners carried a large banner that said “Stop killing us,” a reference to growing concern about the increasing use of lethal force by Brazilian police.

Ailton Félix, the anguished grandfather of the girl, said she was carrying a backpack when she was shot.

“Do you know what was inside that backpack?” he said. “A pencil, a notebook, a pencil sharpener, a book.”

Authorities defend the hardline tactics of police, saying they have contributed to a reduction in violent crime. Still, the death of Félix shocked many Brazilians, even though they are accustomed to high levels of violence in their society.

Justice Minister Sérgio Moro said the government has been working hard to reduce killings and “prevent such events from recurring.”

Gilmar Mendes, a judge on Brazil’s top court, said on Twitter that killings by police in the slums are “alarming” and he questioned security policies in Rio de Janeiro.

Residents and Félix’s family blame local police for her death, saying they only heard a single shot when she was hit.

Police officers, however, say they were attacked from various directions and were responding to gunfire. They have not said whether a police bullet killed Félix.

An investigation is underway. State officials said Sunday the girl’s parents, as well as the van driver and other witnesses, have testified, while police officers will testify on Monday.

There are no reports of other casualties in the incident.

Separately, a police officer died in a hospital on Sunday after he was injured in an operation in the Complexo de Alemao slum last week, the G1 news website reported. It cited local health officials.

Gov. Wilson Witzel of Rio de Janeiro state campaigned for office on promises to fight drug trafficking and corruption. In early January, days after taking office, he said police officers had been authorized to shoot and kill criminals armed with rifles.

Helicopters manned by police snipers also frequently fly over slums.

Police killed 1,075 people in the first seven months of this year in Rio state, which has a population of 17.2 million people, official figures show.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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