SAO PAULO – The wave of violence ravaging Sao Paulo has left another five people dead and a bus destroyed by fire, officials said Saturday.
Two of the killings were committed by an off-duty police officer who was driving in his car with his family and who reacted to the suspicious behavior of the two victims who were in a van, according to Civil Police.
The cop who did the shooting said the van swerved in front of his car, which made him think the two occupants were maneuvering to stage an assault.
Police took another three lives in circumstances not yet made clear in three different incidents in the neighborhoods of Jaçanã and Vila Morais and in the city of Suzano in the Sao Paulo metropolitan district.
Recent weeks have seen an unprecedented outbreak of violence throughout the metropolitan region, home to nearly 20 million people.
The daily O Estado de Sao Paulo estimated Saturday that in the past two weeks, 142 people died in the region, while the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper raised the number to 159, not counting Friday night’s victims.
Also on Saturday before dawn, a group of criminals set fire to a city bus, but before doing so ordered all passengers to get off, so that consequently none were harmed.
Authorities attribute some of these crimes to the drug-trafficking gang First Capital Command, whose kingpins normally give their orders from inside Sao Paulo jails.
Nearly 1,100 homicides were reported in Sao Paulo state during the first nine months of the year. The victims included 90 police officers, most of them killed while off-duty.
Some NGOs say the cause of the bloodshed is a war between organized crime and militias made up mainly of current and former cops.