RIO DE JANEIRO — A police operation targeting drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday morning left at least 25 people dead, including a police officer, in the deadliest shootout in the city in several years, according to local press reports.
The gun battle in Jacarezinho, a poor and working-class district controlled by the drug gang known as Comando Vermelho — Red Command — wounded at least two subway passengers who were struck as their train was caught in the crossfire.
Residents and human rights activists accused the police of using excessive force and questioned why the operation was launched at all, given a Supreme Court ban on law enforcement raids in the city during the pandemic.
Nadine Borges, vice president of the human rights commission at Brazil’s bar association, said a team of lawyers gathering facts about the raid had heard chilling preliminary accounts.
“There were executions of people who had already surrendered,” she said. “It was absolute barbarism.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the police had not provided an official death toll or a detailed account of what led to the gun battle.
The Reuters news agency quoted the police chief, Ronaldo Oliveira, as calling it the deadliest police operation in the city’s history.
Elected officials from Rio de Janeiro who have been critical of the police’s record of draconian tactics denounced the raid, using a hashtag calling it a slaughter.
“The slaughter in Jacarezinho is a typical example of the barbarities that happen in favelas in Rio,” Talíria Petrone, a federal lawmaker from Rio de Janeiro, said in a statement. “It’s the state doing the minimum to guarantee rights and doing the maximum to repress and kill.”
Ms. Petrone, citing an account her team received from the neighborhood, said the body of one of the people killed had been left in public view, with a severed finger hanging from his mouth — “for the population to see.”