The arrests of one current and one former police officer in connection to a recent soccer club massacre in São Paulo, Brazil add a new twist to an incident allegedly tied to the PCC criminal group.
On May 7, Brazilian authorities arrested military police member Walter Pereira da Silva and a former member of the same branch Rodney Dias dos Santos. Investigators believe Santos planned and helped carry out the killing of eight soccer club members in April, AFP and NTN24 reported.
On April 18, according to witnesses, gunmen entered the headquarters of Pavilhão 9, a fan group of soccer team Corinthians. The gunmen reportedly lined up and executed seven club members and wounded another who subsequently died in a hospital from gunshot injuries.
Police have theorized that the massacre was related to a drug debt or a dispute over where drugs were to be sold, reports said. Santos has a criminal record and is allegedly involved in drug trafficking, while members of the Pavilhão 9 club are suspected of being involved in the drug trade as well as having connections to São Paulo-based criminal group First Capital Command (PCC).
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The alleged involvement of a current and former member of the military police is particularly concerning given the force's checkered reputation. A 2014 report found that military police had killed over 10,000 people in São Paulo state since 1995. The report included allegations of extrajudicial killings and found that nearly 1,900 of the killings that occurred during the period were committed by off-duty officers. These latest arrests raise questions about whether or not a number of other past military police killings could have been drug-related as well.
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The incident also highlights the degree of control the PCC exerts over drug trafficking in São Paulo. According to some reports, the PCC is suspected of having ordered the massacre as a message to other soccer clubs with whom it conducts drug business. If true, this indicates not only that the PCC may have former and current military police members on its payroll, but that the criminal group also felt powerful enough to carry out such a high-profile incident regardless of the potential fallout from authorities.