SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian police shot dead three suspected armed robbers who broke into an airport terminal and fled with cash on Thursday before blocking a highway by lighting trucks on fire and shooting at security guards and police.
Police officers are seen near a site where an armed gang holds people hostage after they robbed a securities company at the Viracopos airport freight terminal, in Campinas near Sao Paulo, Brazil October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso
Police said two of the men were killed while fleeing Viracopos International Airport in the city of Campinas, near Sao Paulo, while the third ran into a house and took a family hostage before being shot by a sniper.
More than a dozen suspects had fled the airport in a well-organized heist that involved waiting transport, police said, adding they were still searching for fugitives.
The incident is the second high-profile theft at a major Brazilian airport this year, after armed men broke into Guarulhos airport, the country’s largest, in July and stole $40 million worth of gold.
Two private security guards and a police officer were shot and injured in Thursday’s robbery at Viracopos airport, which is a growing international hub and the principal base for airline Azul SA.
Police did not say how much cash was stolen in the raid on a cargo terminal, before the suspects fled in SUV vehicles to a nearby highway where container trucks, lit on fire, blocked general access.
“Still on the run, the suspects were intercepted by police … as they abandoned their SUVs and passed cash and weapons into a garbage truck they had prepared,” police said.
Police intercepted the garbage truck, sparking a shootout where the suspects abandoned the garbage truck and stole two police vehicles. When police caught up to the suspects again, two men were shot at the scene, while a third broke into a nearby house and took a woman and toddler hostage.
Police attempted to negotiate with the man before he placed a gun to the head of the woman, prompting a sniper to shoot and kill him. The woman was hit by shrapnel and is in a stable condition.
Brazilian police have come under the spotlight for a spike in police killings as officials crack down on crime in a country that has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
Police have defended the increasing deaths, saying officers are finding themselves in more violent confrontations because of a nearly 50% increase in the number of raids, a response to higher crime.
Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Additional reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jane Wardell