A disturbing dash cam video released this weekend in Brazil shows a Rio de Janeiro cop firing his rifle at a car full of students and killing a female passenger because —among other arbitrary concerns — the driver was wearing a baseball cap.
Haíssa Vargas, 22, died of gunshot wounds to the back on Aug. 2 after a Rio cop fired at the car nine times when the driver failed to pull over immediately. A subsequent investigation showed the driver, who hadn’t committed any traffic violations, thought the police were trying to pull over someone else. The passengers in the back of the car said they never heard the police siren.
Haíssa Vargas de Motta, from her Facebook profile.
So why where the police trying to pull over a car full of students? According to Brazilian news magazine Veja, which published the video last weekend, the officers thought that the vehicle looked suspicious because of its model — a Hyundai HB20, one of the most frequently stolen cars in the city— and because the driver was wearing a baseball cap.
“That cap is everything,” one of the officers say on the video as the chase begins.
When the car failed to stop right away, the officer opened fire, apparently aiming at the back tire. He missed and hit Vargas, who was sitting in the backseat. She was taken to the hospital but died from her injuries.
The video shows the moments after the shooting, when Vargas’s friends plea for help and file into the back of the patrol car as the officers drive them to the hospital. The officer driving the parol cruiser acknowledges that they made a mistake by shooting at the students’ car.
The cop who fired his gun was charged with murder and both officers were put on desk duty, according to Veja. The police investigation is still ongoing, according to Brazilian TV network Globo.
The video’s release comes one week after another publication by Veja revealing a series of WhatsApp messages from the commanding officer in charge of the Rio riot police during last year’s FIFA protests, Col. Fabio Souza, bragging about shooting a protesters in the back with a tear gas canister, urging violence against demonstrators and making sympathetic allusions to the Third Reich. The dash cam video is drawing more negative attention to the training and internal culture of the police in Brazil’s largest tourist destination.