Murder of Black youth in Rio de Janeiro shows racist nature of policing in Brazil

14-year-old João Pedro Mattos Pinto was playing in the yard of his house when he was shot in the midst of an operation

Translated by: Zoe PC, with Peoples Dispatch

Brasil de Fato | Rio de Janeiro (RJ) |
João Pedro, a 14-year-old, was shot inside his house - Personal Archive

The recent murder of a teen in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil has thrown light on the racist nature of policing in the country. The 14-year-old Black student, João Pedro Mattos Pinto, was killed during an operation of the Federal Police (PF) and of the Coordinator of Special Resources (Core) in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro on the afternoon of May 18, Monday. He was hit in the stomach when he was playing in the yard of his house. The adolescent was taken away in a helicopter of the civil police after being shot at. His family was provided no information about his whereabouts till the morning of May 19.

According to the fire department, the body of the victim was left on Monday at the Grouping of Aerial Operations in the southern zone of Rio around 3 pm. On Tuesday morning, family members of João Pedro were in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and recognized his body. He was described by family and friends as a relaxed kid who went to church often.

According to the data manager of the platform Fogo Cruzado (fire crossed), Maria Isabel Couto, there has been no substantial decrease in instances of violence against children and youth involving the police as compared to the same period in 2019. This is despite the raging pandemic and the quarantine decreed by the State government.

“In 2019, 38 adolescents were shot in the state of Rio compared to 24 in this year. In theory, this is positive, but we have been in quarantine for more than two months and in this period, there was a huge reduction of people on the streets. If we look further, we can see that the violence did not decrease. In 50% of the cases of adolescents being shot in this year, the police were involved. Last year, 53% were shot in the presence of police,” Maria Isabel told Brasil de Fato.

According to the researcher, the data clearly shows the police pay no attention to people’s safety. Maria Isabel Couto pointed out that the Complexo do Salgueiro, where João Pedro was shot, was the scene of a recent massacre also involving Core.

“A year and a half ago, another poorly planned operation resulted in a massacre. Now, again, a case involving a Core agent ended in a tragic way. This is an absurd case of an adolescent being shot and killed within his home, taken away for help, and dying even as the family has no knowledge. The family has faced utmost neglect. It is necessary to highlight this,” she said.

#procurasejoaopedro #findjoaopedro

On Twitter, one of the trending topics on Tuesday morning was the hashtag #findjoaopedro. A number of public figures and community leaders shared the hashtag, seeking answers about the boy who was disappeared after being shot.

Guilherme Boulos, leader of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST), asked, “In the middle of the pandemic, another young Black boy has been disappeared in Rio de Janeiro, after being shot by the police. Where is João Pedro?”

Shortly after information was released that the body of the boy had been identified in the Medical Examiner’s Office of São Gonçalo, Boulos placed the blame on the state governor Wilson Witzel. “The body of the boy João Pedro was found in the IML [Medical Examiner’s Office] after being killed by the PM [Military Police] of Rio. Another victim of the security policy of genocide of the poor and Black. Witzel pretends to be a ‘defender of life’ in the pandemic, but he is an agent of death in the poor neighborhoods of Rio, ” Boulos said.

The federal deputy Talíria Petrone of the Socialism and Liberty Party also denounced the incident on Twitter, “After hours without any knowledge of their son, the family of João Pedro, a 14-year-old who was shot inside his house, finds out that he is at the IML. Sad. Devastating. How long will the state continue to spill the blood of young Black people in favelas?”

Edited by: Mariana Pitasse e Vivian Fernandes