Ginvaldo de Jesus Santos suffocated after being trapped by officers in the back of a smoke-filled car.
A video of an unarmed black man in Brazil choking on gas in the trunk of a police car after being stopped by a highway patrol has sparked outrage in the country.
Pictures of police making a stop on Tuesday in Umbauba, in the northeastern state of Sergipe, show officers pinning Ginvaldo de Jesus Santos to the ground, before forcibly holding him in the back of their car as a thick cloud of white smoke appeared. Four-wheel drive cars.
The 38-year-old could be heard screaming as he was handcuffed – described by his family as suffering from schizophrenia – and kicked his legs protruding from the car for some time, until they finally stopped moving. The officers seemed unfazed by the surrounding spectators.
Social media erupted over photos taken with the phone’s camera. On Wednesday, dozens gathered to protest in Umbauba, blocking a road, burning tires and waving signs calling for justice.
“People are angry,” a man can be heard saying in a video of the protest on Twitter. “They killed the man!” Another said to the crowd through a loudspeaker.
According to the victim’s family, officers approached Santos while riding his motorcycle in the area. Santos’ nephew Wallison de Jesus told news site G1 that he became nervous when officers found schizophrenia medication in his pocket.
“They threw some kind of gas into the trunk of the car and went to the police station, but my uncle was unconscious. They took him to the hospital, but it was already too late,” said de Jesus.
The Federal Highway Police said in a statement that the man displayed aggressive behavior and was “actively resisting” officers who stopped him. The statement said agents crippled him, then used “gadgets of lower offensive capability” to contain him.
The statement said Santos fell ill while being taken to a police station and taken to hospital, where his death was confirmed.
The statement did not say the two officers trapped him inside the back of their car where white gas was seen rising, but said the Federal Highway Police had opened an investigation to investigate the officers’ conduct.
A preliminary autopsy concluded that the man died of respiratory failure due to “mechanical suffocation,” Sergipe State Institute of Forensic Medicine spokesman Jorge Fernandez told The Associated Press.
And the institute’s report stated, according to Reuters news agency, that “this blockage can occur through several factors, and at this first moment it was not possible to determine the direct cause of suffocation or how it occurred.”
The Forensic Institute must submit its final, more in-depth report to the Federal Police within 10 days.
The Brazilian Public Security Forum, an independent group, said in a statement that the incident “shocked Brazilian society by its level of brutality, and exposed the institution’s unwillingness to ensure its clients adhere to basic procedures.”
President Jair Bolsonaro said he will learn from the Federal Highway Police what happened. He also referred to a separate incident that occurred two weeks ago when a man shot two highway officers while on duty.
The accident comes just days after officers from the Highway Police participated in an operation in Rio de Janeiro that left more than 20 people dead.
Police said they had no choice but to use lethal force, but residents’ accounts published in local media have cast doubt on that claim.
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