Two retired police officers were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the high-profile murder last year of a Brazilian politician known for her criticism of police violence.
Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco was killed last March when a driver pulled up alongside her car and shot her in the head several times. Anderson Pedro Gomes, her driver, was also killed in the attack, while her press officer, Fernanda Chaves, survived the shooting. It was reported at the time that at least two people were involved in Franco's murder.
Retired Sgt. Ronnie Lessa, 48, and former police officer Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, 46, were both taken into custody early Tuesday. According to police, Lessa was allegedly the shooter in the attack, while Queiroz acted as the driver. Lessa is accused of using a German submachine gun, used exclusively by the police in Brazil, in the attack, while Queiroz was caught watching Franco's movements the day of the attack. The two men reportedly knew each other prior to the attack.
Police accused the two of demonstrating a high degree of sophistication in planning the attack, which reportedly involved three months of trailing Franco, using prepaid cellphones to communicate, and having previous knowledge of Franco's movements, as well as insight into the location where the ambush would occur.
In a twist, Lessa was arrested at his sea-facing condominium in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro — the same condo unit where Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lives.
In the complaint filed on Tuesday, the Public Prosecutor's Office said Lessa was motivated by opposition to Franco's political actions and the causes she defended, but didn't provide additional information.
Simone Sibílio, who coordinated the case between Rio prosecutors and the country's federal prosecutors who focus on organized crime, told reporters that Lessa's motivation was "a repulsion" toward Franco's defense of "causes aimed at minorities."
Public prosecutor Leticia Emile Petriz said there is no compelling evidence that Lessa is involved with right-wing militias, a piece of speculation that has trailed the case since the shooting, but confirmed investigations into a supposed link to "violent crime remains."
Franco, 38 at the time of the shooting, identified as a lesbian and was a member of the left-wing Socialism and Liberty Party. During her time on the city council and as an activist, she was known for defending the rights of minorities and condemning excessive police violence.
Prosecutors didn't rule out completely that the two men may have been acting on the orders of another person or persons. "Is it possible that the crime has a principal? It's possible. Is it possible that you do not have a principal? It's also possible," Sibílio told journalists on Tuesday.
As it stands, Sibílio and other prosecutors said there are still 28 names being withheld in connection with the ongoing investigation.