Brazil to probe 2012 police copter shootout with drug suspect

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Brazilian police helicopter fires at suspected drug dealer

Critics say police would never risk shooting at homes and buildings in Brazil's tourist areas and demand an investigation into the 2012 shootout.

Brazil is opening an investigation into a 2012 shootout in which police fired from a helicopter at an accused drug trafficker as they pursued him through a Rio de Janeiro shantytown.

Inquiries into the shooting began after exclusive video of the bizarre shooting appeared on national television Sunday, airing on the popular news program "Fantastico."

The shooting, which took place May 11, 2012, began after police monitoring one of Rio's most wanted alleged drug traffickers, Marcio Pereira, nicknamed "Mathematician," notified a police helicopter that they believed Pereira could be found in the Korea shantytown, located in Rio's West zone.

According to police, Pereira was running a drug-trafficking ring through four different towns in one of the most populous regions of Rio.

Reportedly, from an altitude between 3,000 and 3,900 feet, police in the video spotted a man they said "looked like" Pereira. The helicopter then descended to an altitude of about 65 to 130 feet before pursuing a vehicle that apparently had Pereira traveling inside it.

Police opened fire, shooting several rounds while chasing the speeding car.

The car eventually halted and was surrounded by people in the area. Pereira did manage to escape, but was then found dead the next day in a parked car.

Since the video surfaced, internal affairs for the police, the state attorney general and a local human rights commission are all looking into the shooting. Investigators will determine if police officers used excessive force in their pursuit.

State Attorney General Marfan Martins Vieira believes the video demands a proper inquiry.

"As these new images constitute new proof, I am examining the opening of an investigation in order to make the proper inquires, and eventually, those in charge, those people involved in this operation, will be held responsible," Vieira said.

Bullets struck homes and other buildings in a heavily populated neighborhood. No injuries were reported.

Rio and its police continue to face global scrutiny with a pending visit by Pope Francis in July, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

A recent string of violent incidents involving tourists, including an American woman who was gang-raped and robbed, have raised concerns.

Part of Rio's police force, the elite squad unit known as BOPE, have been known to, at times, use warlike tactics when entering shantytowns to apprehend drug traffickers.

Marcelo Freixo, a state representative and active member of a local human rights commission, believes the police would never behave the same way if they were in Rio's more touristy beachside neighborhoods.

"It's unimaginable that in Rio de Janeiro, still today, in some territories, the police can act without obeying the law. In others? No. A scene like this, the pursuit of a car with criminals inside, would never be done this way in Ipanema, Copacabana or Leblon. Never would we have a building shot up in any neighborhood in the South zone of Rio de Janeiro," Freixo said.

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