The death of a black man has sparked outrage in Brazil after videos showed police officers holding him in the trunk of a smoke-filled police car as they tried to arrest him.
Viral footage from a police stop in Umbauba, in Brazil’s northeastern Sergipe state, shows officers forcing 38-year-old Genivaldo de Jesus Santos into the back of their police vehicle as smoke pours from the trunk.
They lean on the tailgate to prevent Santos from leaving, even though a cloud of white smoke comes out of the car.
His legs, sticking out of the SUV, kick for a while before they stop moving.
On Thursday, an autopsy by the state’s Forensic Medical Institute found that Santos died of “mechanical asphyxiation,” the Associated Press reported.
The Brazilian federal police said they have opened an investigation into the circumstances of the death.
Mass protests call for justice
Days after another police brutality case, the shocking images sparked horror on social media, sparking protests in the city of Umbauba on Wednesday. Protesters closed the highway, set fire to tires and waved signs demanding justice.
“The population is outraged,” one protester said, according to AFP news agency, while another addressed the crowd: “They killed the man!”
Santos’ family said he became nervous when officers found his prescription schizophrenia drug in his pocket. Wallyson de Jesus, a cousin of Santos, was present during his uncle’s detention.
“They threw some kind of gas in the trunk and went to the police station, but my uncle was unconscious. They took him to the hospital, but it was already too late,” he told local media.
According to the statement from the Federal Highway Police, the man actively resisted the officers when he was arrested, causing the officers to immobilize him. According to the statement, the officers used “tools with less offensive potential” to restrain him.
It added that he fell ill while being transported to a police station and taken to a hospital, where his death was confirmed.
Repeated cases of police brutality
The shocking incident came to light days after highway police officers in Rio de Janeiro participated in an operation that killed more than 20 people. While police said they were forced to use deadly force, residents have contradicted the claims.
President Jair Bolsonaro cited a separate case two weeks ago in which a man shot two road cops on duty and said he would find out more details about the latest Federal Highway Police incident.
The latest incident “shocked Brazilian society at the level of its brutality, exposing the institution’s lack of readiness to ensure that its agents obey basic procedures,” the Brazilian Public Security Forum, an independent group, said in a statement.
“This was a crime committed with cruelty,” Santos’ wife Maria told local news network G1.
see/rs (Reuters, AP, AFP)