CCTV correspondent Stephen Gibbs reports from São Paulo on one audacious crime from last year that shocked Brazilians and went viral on the web.
Like many metropolitan areas, São Paulo is a city of contrasts. A shocking social divide exists between the rich and the poor of the city. The past year has seen crime spike. Security for the World Cup has been a major concern in all the host cities, but especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Rio’s favelas have also been the source of much violence in Brazil. In April, a dancer was killed in Rio when police mistook him for a drug dealer. The most violent crimes can be traced back to drug-trafficking. The incident with the dancer has ignited a lot of civilian protests.
Anderson de Oliveira is a security officer at a bank. His Honda motorcycle is his pride and joy. It cost him the equivalent of $15,000 new, and he is still paying back the loan he took out for the bike.
last October, he set off to cross Sao Paulo, to meet up with fellow motorcycling enthusiasts for the weekend.
“It was a Saturday, about two in the afternoon, I took out my bike,” Anderson says, “I was on my way to a motorbike show.”
Violence caught on video in São PauloCCTV correspondent Stephen Gibbs is in São Paulo to report on one audacious crime from last year that shocked Brazilians and went viral on the web.
At around same time, Captain Bernardo, a veteran of 27 years in Brazil’s military police, was just finishing his daily shift, before driving home for dinner with his wife and two children.
At the home of 18 year old Leo Escarante, his family didn’t know where he was. They certainly had no idea that the previous evening a friend had lent him a loaded pistol, apparently for safe keeping.
Three lives were about to collide, in a way which no one could possibly have predicted.
Anderson usually rides with a helmet camera, so he can show his friends his motorcycling adventures. As he sped through the city streets, his camera was switched on. The video captures Leo Escarante beginning to rob Anderson with a gun pointed right at him.
Captain Antonio Bernardo says, “I was leaving work, passing by that street. The crime happened close to the train line. The traffic was very similar to the traffic now. I saw two motorcycles arrive. From here, I could see, on the other side of the street, the robbery. So I stopped the car. I pulled the hand-brake, took off the seatbelt, grabbed my gun, held it, and waited for the best moment to act.”
Anderson was not aware that Captain Bernardo was about to intervene. He was focusing on the gun being pointed at him by Leo.
Anderson says, “I cannot express how I actually felt. It’s a little bit of fear, adrenaline, nervous, everything at the same time.”
Back at the scene of the crime, the police captain says he was shooting in self-defense. Captain Bernardo says, “I left the car, with my gun and I ordered him to rise up his hands.”
Leo had his hands on the handlebars; he took one hand from it and reached for his gun. When he put his hand on his gun,Bernardo shot him twice, and he fell down.
For the next 8 minutes Leo was left on the ground writhing in agony. He had been shot in the leg, another bullet had passed through his abdomen. No first aid was offered.
Captain Bernardo says, “Just after he fell down, we called for an ambulance. We have a rescue team that is able to arrive within minutes, anywhere in Sao Paulo.”
This video soon went viral in Brazil, and the overwhelming number of comments on social media said the sort of rough justice it displays is just the right approach to this city’s endemic crime problem.
Anderson says, “For me, a thief must be arrested or dead. I do not have pity for bandits. In my opinion it would have been better if he had just been taken away, there and then.”
Leo was eventually taken to hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to repair internal damage caused by the bullet.
Anderson says, “It was really incredible because throughout the whole incident Captain Bernardo was observing the robbers with calm, with patience, waiting for the perfect moment so the robber would not pose a threat to me, to him, or to passers-by.”
Leo’s mother visits Leo on weekends. She works as a maid during the week, but at three in the morning, every Saturday, she gets up to go and see her son. She makes him his favorite food.
“I couldn’t imagine a week without seeing him. Waiting for the next week to see him is like an eternity. I saw him last week. And when I was there it felt like it was such a long time that I hadn’t seen him. And until he is back home with me I will go on seeing him. Because I miss him,” Leo’s mother says.
She gets to the prison shortly after dawn, to be somewhere near the front of the queue of the hundreds of others waiting to see the prisoners inside. Going home, she says, is the worst part.
Over the last decade a whole generation of Brazilians, its new middle class, has been promised that this is a country whose time has come. That some of the trappings of the material world – once just to be ogled on television – can really be theirs.
To some, hard work and installment payments are helping that dream come true. But for plenty of others the dream is well and truly shattered, before it really began.
Many of São Paulo’s crimes and violence can be related to street gangs and organized crime groups operating throughout the city. São Paulo continues to experience crimes such as kidnappings, armed assaults and thefts. Daily reports of armed robberies occur regularly throughout the neighborhoods of São Paulo.
The government has increased its security presence during the World Cup matches to combat robberies, thefts and car jacks. But to be sure, street awareness is a must as you walk the streets.