SAO PAULO, Brazil — The governor of Rio de Janeiro state apologized Wednesday for the death of a woman shot during a firefight between police and criminal suspects and later dragged behind a police vehicle.
The incident was the latest to raise questions about police conduct in Rio as Gov. Sergio Cabral’s administration continues a years-long effort to reform the police department and establish peace in its favelas, or slums, in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, which begins in June, and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Claudia da Silva Ferreira, 38, was struck by gunfire Sunday near her home in the Congonha slum during a shootout between police and local criminal suspects. She was taken by police to a nearby hospital. Amateur video later emerged showing her being dragged through the street behind the police vehicle, leading to widespread public outcry.
“Claudia’s death shocked the country,” President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday via her official Twitter account. “Claudia da Silva Ferreira had four children, had been married for 20 years, and woke up every morning to work in a hospital.”
Three officers were placed in disciplinary custody Monday, and could face murder charges. At the end of the video, two officers are seen throwing her body back into the trunk of the SUV and continuing on.
“The governor apologized for the brutality and recklessness of the police. I believe in apologies, but I want the members of the military police who were involved to be punished,” said Alexandre Fernandes da Silva, the dead woman’s husband, local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported. He also said that in slum communities, the police “enter firing.”
Though crime has declined in Rio in recent years, police are still widely accused of human rights abuses, torture, and summary executions. The governor is responsible for police and security, and his popularity has dropped since a wave of a protests that began in June focused on police abuses, among other social issues.
The best-known case since then involved the disappearance of slum resident and construction worker Amarildo Dias de Souza. High-ranking police officers now face charges of torturing and killing him, and then disposing of the body.
According to data from December, only 12% of Rio de Janeiro state residents approve of the governor’s leadership, making him the least popular governor in the country.
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