Man dies in police car 'gas chamber'
In a viral video of the incident Brazilian police are seen holding the hatchback door closed as thick white smoke pours from the car
A Brazilian man has died after being arrested by police and locked in their car trunk with what appeared to be a teargas canister, causing outrage across the country.
In a viral video taken at the scene on Wednesday in the northeastern city of Umbauba, two officers can be seen pinning 38-year-old Genivaldo de Jesus Santos to the street.
They then put him in the trunk of their federal highway police vehicle and held the hatchback door closed even as thick white smoke poured from the car.
Santos screamed and kicked frantically but the officers pushed down on the door, his legs outside the car, the rest of his body inside it.
"They're going to kill him!" a bystander shouted. Santos's legs then go limp.
State officials said an autopsy found Santos died of asphyxiation.
“Police officers turned a car into a gas chamber and executed a mentally ill man,” said Renata Souza, a black activist and politician from Rio de Janeiro. “There are no words in the face of such inhumanity. Brazil is an extermination camp!”
"This was a crime, perpetrated with cruelty," Santos's wife, Maria, told local news site G1.
"They threw some kind of gas inside the trunk and went to the police station, but my uncle was unconscious. They took him to the hospital, but it was already too late," said Wallyson de Jesus, a nephew of Santos'.
Genivaldo de Jesus Santos suffered from schizophrenia
His family told G1 he suffered from schizophrenia and was taking prescription medication. He had packets of his pills in his bag when he was stopped by police.
The federal highway police said Santos had "actively resisted," leading officers to use "lower-impact immobilization techniques." They said a disciplinary proceeding had been opened. President Jair Bolsonaro has also said he would find out what happened.
Social media has erupted in outrage over the images, and dozens of people gathered to protest on Wednesday in Umbauba, where they blocked a road and burned tires.
"The population is outraged," a man can be heard saying in a video of the protest posted on Twitter. "They murdered the guy!" another told the crowd through a loudspeaker.
The incident "shocked Brazilian society due to the level of its brutality, exposing the institution's lack of preparedness to guarantee that its agents obey basic procedures," the Brazilian Public Security Forum, an independent group, said in a statement.
Lethal police violence is commonplace in Brazil but disproportionately affects the country’s black population.
The death came on the second anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd in the United States, and drew immediate comparisons.
"Why does #BlackLivesMatter only matter in Brazil when the death happens somewhere else?" asked another tweet.