Girl shot dead in police op as she sat with her grandmother in minivan

22 September 2019, 01:44 | Updated: 22 September 2019, 08:24

Hundreds of people have been protesting after a child was killed by a stray bullet during a police operation.

Agatha Sales Felix, eight, was shot in the back while she sat with her grandmother in a van in Rio de Janeiro's Complexo do Alemao shantytown on Friday evening.

Police said officers had been nearby when they were "attacked from various locations and retaliated", according to local news reports.

On Saturday, the little girl's family blamed police for her death, and described her as "affectionate and sweet".

Ailton Felix, Agatha's grandfather, said: "The community, all the entire hill feels because we are residents, we are workers, we pay taxes, we are the life of this place. They [the police] just can't arrive, see a minivan and shoot it, out of nothing, shoot it. Where's their training?

"Where is Witzel who says police will be prepared? Prepared for what? If I'm with this (he held up a plastic water bottle) in my hand at night like this (by the hip) they will say it's a gun and will shoot me."

Wilson Witzel is the governor of Rio de Janeiro and an ally of Brazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who has promised more powers for police.

But many people blame him for an increase in the number of civilian deaths during police operations.

During protests on Saturday, people shouted "Justice! Justice!".

Signs were held saying "enough deaths", "favela lives matter", and "more schools, less shootings".

A community leader told the crowd: "If we keep silent, tomorrow it will be me, it will be you, it will be your grandchild."

Police in Rio killed 731 people in the first five months of this year, an increase of almost 20% compared with the same period last year, according to Rio's Public Security Institute.

In July Mr Witzel, a former judge and military veteran, described the increase as "normal", telling reporters: "We live in a situation of confrontation and the criminals are testing the limits of the police and the government.

"Nobody wants to kill bandits. We want to arrest them. But they need to know we are going to act with rigour. When we arrive, they either surrender, or die."