SÃO PAULO — Brazilian authorities on Tuesday arrested two former policemen in connection with the murder of bisexual Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco.
Investigators say Ronnie Lessa and Élcio Vieira de Queiroz on March 14, 2018, shot Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, from their car. Lessa, a retired military policeman, allegedly fired 13 shots at the car in which Franco and Gomes were sitting, along with Fernanda Chaves, Franco’s former assistant who survived the shooting.
Police say De Queiroz, who is also a former military policeman, was driving the car.
There were indications that military militias in Rio were likely behind the killing of Franco, who was outspoken against their conduct in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. But her murder is far from being solved.
Far-right politicians in Brazil openly despised Franco because she was a human rights activist. It is also believed the former police officers who were arrested are not the ones who ordered her murder.
Investigators have concluded the crime was probably planned for three months, according to an Internet search history on Lessa’s computer. Investigators found saved searches about the gun used in the crime and also about places that Franco used to frequent.
Lessa was arrested at his home, which is in the same condominium complex in Rio’s exclusive Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in which President Jair Bolsonaro lived when he represented the city in Brazil’s Congress.
Another Rio congressman, Marcelo Freixo, who was Franco’s political mentor, was under threat last December without his knowledge. Authorities uncovered a plan to murder Freixo, who was among those who were the most public in their demands that Franco’s murder be solved.
“We know who fired the gun, but still don’t know who ordered Marielle’s assassination,” said Freixo on Tuesday after Lessa and De Queiroz’s arrest.
The arrests took place less than two months after death threats prompted Jean Wyllys — the first openly gay man elected to Brazil’s Congress who was a vocal advocate for LGBTI and human rights and religious freedom — to resign and flee the country.
He announced he was leaving because he was afraid for his life. Wyllys had been under police protection for months and was continuously receiving death threats.
Bolsonaro in a tweet after Wyllys announced he was leaving Brazil wrote “great day.” Investigators continue to investigate whether Bolsonaro and his sons have ties to the Rio militias.