Rio de Janeiro's drug traffickers knocked down a police helicopter that was after them, this Saturday, October 17, killing two military policemen who were inside the aircraft. The chopper was hit by bullets and tried to land in a soccer field in Sampaio's Olympic Village, in the north side of Rio, but the aircraft caught fire and exploded.
Police and traffickers had been shooting at each other since Friday night. The military intervened in a dispute among drug lords trying to secure for their gang the choicest drug distribution location at Morro dos Macacos (Monkeys Hill), a favela in the northern neighborhood of Vila Isabel.
Rio won the 2016 Olympic Games bid earlier this month in Copenhagen despite concerns raised by the International Olympic Committee about security. Rio de Janeiro, despite recent police successes, remains one of the world's most dangerous cities. While most of the violence is confined to the favelas it may spill sometimes to the wealthy neighborhoods in the South side of the city.
Preliminary information reveals that the shots against the armored chopper hit the pilot in the leg and damaged one of the helicopter's propellers.
According to the police, the shooting between the gangs started around 1 am, when drug traffickers from Morro de São João invaded the Morro dos Macacos. During the gangs confrontation at dawn three bodies were found inside a black Peugeot in one of the access streets to the community.
According to Rio's Secretariat of Public Security, there were four policemen inside the crashed helicopter. Two escaped with some burns and were taken to Andaraí's emergency room. About 120 policemen took part in the operation to deal with the drug war.
Apparently in a move to distract the military, four buses were set afire by the traffickers. The sight of the burning vehicles contributed to spread panic among residents in the neighborhood.
In protest against the melee, residents from Morro dos Macacos staged demonstrations in the neighborhood, Saturday morning, setting tires and other objects on fire in Vila Isabel.
The population were protesting what they saw as lack of action by the police after the drug dealers started their little war in the wee hours of Saturday.
During the protest, Morro dos Macacos' residents tried to invade the 20th DP's (Police District) jail in Vila Isabel in an attempt to lynch inmates who they say belong to a rival gang. Some windows were broken by the protesters, but authorities were able to restore order.
"We do not consider this an invasion attempt. Actually, all that happened was an attempt by the residents to call the police attention. And we responded by reinforcing the police presence." said the coordinator for the civilian police jails, police chief Orlando Zacone.