RIO DE JANEIRO – At least four people were killed and eight others wounded during an armed robbery at a spiritual center in Recife, the capital of the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco, state police said Thursday.
The armed robbery occurred Wednesday night at the Grupo Espiritual Amor ao Proximo (GEAP) offices in Jaboatão dos Guararapes while a psychologist was delivering a lecture.
Seven armed men, including two men who had been in the audience, ordered the approximately 150 people attending the event to hand over their personal belongings.
The robbers also told their victims to pull up their shirts to show they were not armed, prompting a police officer in the audience to draw his pistol and open fire on the assailants.
The officer killed two of the robbers before being shot twice in the head. He was transported to a hospital, where he died while being treated for his wounds.
The fourth person killed was a 57-year-old woman who was hit in the crossfire.
The woman’s husband, who was waiting for her outside the venue, was overpowered by the robbers, who took his vehicle.
One suspect has been arrested in connection with the armed robbery, police said.
More than 2,500 murders occurred during the first six months of 2017 in Pernambuco, a figure that was up 44.4 percent from the same period last year.
The wave of violence in the state left 1,143 people dead in Recife and its metro area during the first six months of this year, state officials said.