Suspect in slaying of Rio councilwoman killed in operation

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A former military policeman being investigated for his possible involvement in the 2018 murder of a Rio de Janeiro councilwoman and activist was killed by special forces Sunday in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia.

Authorities had been looking for Adriano Magalhães da Nóbrega, who is thought to be involved in the killing of Marielle Franco, a prominent activist for Afro-Brazilian and LGBT rights, and her driver. The assassination shocked many Brazilians and sparked protests in several countries.

The state’s Secretary for Public Security said an elite squad of officers, known by its acronym BOPE, found da Nóbrega in the Bahian city of Esplanada. Da Nóbrega was a former member of BOPE in Rio.

He was killed after resisting arrest and shooting at police forces, the Secretary of Public Security said.

Daily O Globo reported that da Nóbrega’a lawyer, Paulo Emílio Catta Preta, would ask for a full investigation of the operation. The lawyer said his client had been reluctant to surrender because he was convinced he would be killed in prison to prevent him from collaborating with investigators.

Since the early days of the investigation into Franco’s murder, authorities have pointed to police-linked militias.

In March 2019, a year after her death, police arrested two former police officers, Ronnie Lessa and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz on suspicion of having carried out the attack. Lawyers for both men denied their involvement.

Months later, Brazil’s departing attorney general requested that five people be charged with obstruction of justice. The document cited two court officials, two police agents and a lawyer, alleging interference with the inquiry.

But the mastermind of the killings remains unknown.

On Twitter, Franco’s former partner asked: “Who wins with the death of ex-Bope Adriano Nóbrega?”

Left-wing party PSOL, to which Franco belonged, published its own statement, demanding full transparency on the circumstances of da Nóbrega’s death. It said its Bahian lawmakers will request a hearing with the Secretariat of Public Security, since the militia man was a “key piece to reveal several crimes.”

Franco was a prominent activist and an outspoken critic of Rio’s violent police forces and paramilitary groups, but a year and a half after the assassination, the motive remains unclear.