All of you know I grew up in New Zealand so being a good kiwi boy I always thought I could tell the difference between a gunshot and a motorbike back firing.. since we have been here I have heard lots of backfires and what I thought was a couple of gunshots but seen nothing.
But on Monday I was at home making some lunch when I heard what I just knew was gun shots and they were real close, so I went out to the balcony just in time to see people screaming and running, climbing and scrambling out of the little restaurant about 200 metres down the road from our apartment. As the diners ran one way the cops (all with shotguns or automatic pistols at the ready) ran towards the restaurant. We found out a guy had gone in to hold the place up, and the cops just happened to be following him, so they were ready.
The Cops Arrive – and diners Scatter – click on picture to launch full size snap.
Now I haven’t had any dealing myself with the Brazilian police but I know enough to know they have a bit of a reputation for being shoot first, negotiate second kinda people so I was understandably nervous as I watched the scene unfold, but they formed a solid perimeter around the restaurant and one the cops very bravely walked into the restaurant to help out the remaining diners – well except for the ones that the gunman was now hold hostage in the kitchen that is…
First cops try to shoot the robber
Needless to say, more cops arrived, and then more cops arrived, and then more cops arrived, everyone pulled on their bullet proof vests, loaded their guns and stood in an easy circle around the front of the restaurant, the guy who had been helping people out of the dining area was still in the restaurant presumably talking to the gunman, while his associates climbed and crawled all over the place looking for an angle to get a sight on the gunman.
Now I must say at this point that I have never seen a police shootout/hostage drama before, I love watching cops – and any other reality police crap TV and I love action movies as much as the next man. But when its happening right in front of you, shots have already been exchanged between the cops and robber and the cops are doing their best to get an angle so they can kill the gunman, it really is a sobering experience..
Quite a while passed by and everyone has calmed down, the one guy is still talking to the gunman and everyone else is covering the exits, guns drawn and pointed, but the police seem to have the situation under control, they have even pulled the eager public onlookers back to reasonably safe perimeter.
Suddenly out of nowhere a couple of shots are exchanged, but amazingly everyone remains calm..
Then I hear sounds approaching from the distance, what ever it is, it sounds like an group of V8 Australian touring cars with police sirens then the first of many mat black Chevy bronco type 4x4s scream down the road, tires screaming, engines racing – looking and sounding more like something out of mad max than any police force I have ever seen.
The cavalry arrive
These guys are from GOE which I figure must be the ‘really heavily armed response unit’. They pull up in a screech of tire smoke (at this point I have to laugh, they are obviously working really hard on their tough guy images), they jump out of their wagons, strap on holsters, helmets, grab machine guns and load ’em, then and this is the good bit, they kinda line up, shake hands, slap each other on the back, light cigarettes, talk on their mobile phones and have a bit of a chit chat (ok maybe they were planning their assault, but they looked very relaxed either way).
The cavalry have a chat and a smoke
So now the big boys are here the regular police force are pulled back, the cop who has been negotiating is pulled back to hand over to one of the big cheeses from the GOE team, he then sends his guys in, much closer than the regular cops had been – and he just walks in, no vest, no gun, no nothing, just a big beer belly and balls the size of basketballs… he walks in and comes back out again with what I think is a shot policeman, who they rush into one of the waiting ambulances, he then goes straight back in and brings out most of the hostages, a couple of old ladies who had been having lunch, and the guys from the kitchen, the old ladies are given a sit down and a cup of tea, while the kitchen staff are frisked, searched and checked out – presumably they could have been in on it, I am not sure, but I suppose you gotta be safe and sure in these things.
By now the area is surrounded by TV cameras, there is plenty of ambulances, a fire engine, the police chief has arrived, as have half of Sao Paulos residents to watch the scene, all the balconies in our building have people standing on them and all of us are waiting for something to happen.
The negotiator is talking the whole time, and he is slowly working his way further into the kitchen area, unknownst to the gunman, he is closely followed by two blokes dressed as storm troopers with really big machine guns who must just be standing out of sight, then suddenly everyone is running into the building weapons drawn, no shots were fired, I think the guys just realised he wasn’t going to win and then WHAM they rushed him.
Job Done – robber is lead away to paddy wagon.
So about two hours later, there it was, case closed, one cop injured, no one killed, a relatively good result I would have to say – the restaurant was even reopened for dinner that night…
As you can imagine having heard all of the horror stories about violence in the streets in Brazil, this was a very, very sobering experience for me, but we have discussed this with lots of Brazilian residents and all of them were as shocked as we were, none of them had ever seen a robbery happen, let alone a police shoot out or a hostage drama, so I can happily report that isn’t a common occurrence, it was big news in SP that day, in fact the GOE leader came back to the spot about four hours later with a couple of TV crews for interviews and a bit of a re-enactment – that must have been quality TV!!
But I think that’s enough reality police stuff for me for a while, I think I will just watch the ‘Are you being served?’ repeats from now on….
Take care – we are!