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English Teacher Killed in Rio

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Joined: 01 Jun 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:16 am    Post subject: English Teacher Killed in Rio Reply with quote

My friend Ron, another American living here in Rio, called me last week. "Did you hear about the American English teacher who was shot and killed this weekend in Lapa?" No, I hadn't heard. But I'm also an English teacher from the U.S., and I also live in the neighborhood of Lapa, so that hits pretty close to home. I checked out the story.

It just so happens that I knew the guy who was killed. I recognized him from his photo in the paper. We met once a few months ago during Carnival, when we were both hanging out in Lapa in the wee hours of the morning. His name was Joe, he was from Boston, had been living here for a long time, spoke decent Portuguese. We had chatted a bit and swapped some stories, and we even exchanged numbers but then never called each other.

Like most news stories here, there are conflicting versions, and it’s almost impossible to get to the bottom of what really happened. And I don’t know any of Joe’s friends, the people who were there that night, to check with them. The only facts that all the newspapers and TV reports agree on is that Joe was shot by a police officer following an argument or a fight, and now he’s dead.

The U.S. media reported the story as “American Killed in Brazil Bar Fight,” and left it at that. But I think they also mucked up the story, because they make it sound like Joe was somehow to blame. The Brazilian press went into more detail, of course. And the story is pretty sad.

As reported in the Rio papers and on local television, Joe was in a bar in Lapa on Thursday night, May 24th, celebrating his 30th birthday. He stepped in to try to break up a fight, and ended up getting shot. How’s that for senseless tragedy? Even worse, Joe was apparently trying to defend a homeless kid who was being abused by a cop. It also seems that the cop who shot him was off-duty at the time, and did not identify himself as a cop before firing his weapon. (However, this is my speculation based on the fact that the officer was arrested for homicide and is in jail.) Joe was shot once in the leg and once in the stomach, the ambulance took 20 minutes to arrive, and he died at the hospital.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of someone getting killed by an off-duty cop carrying his gun. Last year another man, a Brazilian, was shot twice and died following an argument with a cop at the Northeastern Fair in the São Cristóvão neighborhood, a popular weekend event that also attracts a fair amount of foreign tourists. That fight started over a woman. The poor guy didn’t realize that the girl he was hitting on was the cop’s girlfriend. The shots were fired in the middle of a crowded dance floor and caused a panic that had everyone scrambling for the exits. (They have now installed metal detectors at the entrance to the fair.)

Joe’s body is being sent back to Massachusetts, where it will be cremated.

Sources for this story:
Mass. man killed in bar fight with Brazilian policeman – Boston Globe, May 26, 2007.
American Killed in Brazil Bar Fight – Associated Press, May 27, 2007.
Americano assassinado por policial civil na Lapa – O Globo, 26/05/2007.
Corpo de americano baleado na Lapa será cremado nos EUA – G1, O Globo, 28/05/2007. [also has streaming video of local TV news report]

And for the other story from last year:
Homem é morto a tiros por policial na Feira de São Cristóvão – O Globo, 24/07/2006
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