March 12, 2019 / 11:28 AM / 10 days ago

Brazil arrests two former policemen over Rio councilwoman's murder

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 12 (Reuters) - Two former policemen were arrested in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday in connection with the murder of a local councilwoman and her driver, Rio de Janeiro police and prosecutors said.

The operation that resulted in the arrests came on the eve of the first anniversary of the deaths of the councilwoman, Marielle Franco, and Anderson Gomes.

The suspects were identified as Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer, and Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, a former policeman who was expelled from the force.

“Two police officers were arrested with a direct and effective participation in the crime,” said Marcus Vinícius Braga, Rio de Janeiro state police secretary. “With the these arrests, we get close to solving the crime.”

Investigators said Lessa fired the shots that killed Franco and Gomes on March 14, 2018, on the north side of Rio. Queiroz drove the car that ambushed them, investigators said.

Franco, an activist for human rights and women’s causes, was a rising star in the Socialism and Liberty Party. Her press secretary, Fernanda Chaves, who was traveling in the same vehicle as Franco and Gomes, suffered minor injuries.

One of the detained policemen lives in the same gated community where Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has a home and lived before being elected last year. The police did not explain whether that had any significance and so far the president has not been tied to the case in any manner.

The president’s press office did not immediately reply to request for comment. (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga, writing by Ana Mano, editing by Larry King)

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