Shoppers fled in panic as police and bank robbers exchanged fire inside a busy shopping center close to Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Park today.
Terrified visitors, including Olympics spectators, were trapped inside the Barra Garden mall district for 30 minutes as police closed entrances as they hunted the gang, who had just tried to hold up a bank.
Witnesses told of how people ran for their lives, as many believed it was a terrorist attack as bursts of gunfire were heard in the shopping center’s second level. Police eventually killed one of the robbers while another was wounded and taken to hospital.
Killed in front of them: One of the alleged bank robbers was left lying dead on the floor of the mall after the exchange of gunfire in front of visitors, some of them Olympics spectators
A policeman was also hurt in the crossfire, at around 3pm this afternoon.
The gang had earlier walked into a bank in the shopping center, in the same Barra district of Rio as the Olympic Park and athletes’ village, brandishing weapons and demanding money.
An off-duty policeman and a prison officer saw what was happening and opened fire on the gang, according to police.
The robbers fled and exchanged fire with police until one was shot dead and the other wounded.
One shopper, Rodrigo Gomes, who was close to the bank when the shooting began, said: ‘People started to run in the opposite direction to the shots. We tried to hide inside shops, which were closing their doors quickly.
‘When I threw myself on the floor I could see the assailants shooting. There were a lot of shots, at least 12.’
Slum action: Massive security at the Games has also meant more police operations in the favela shantytowns, including these paramilitary police being deployed in Vila de Joao, one of the city’s most notorious
A military police spokesman said that the criminals were carrying a .38 revolver and a .40 caliber pistol.
Meanwhile, Olympic visitors were left startled after a fierce gunfight broke out among police and gangsters in a hillside slum between the tourist districts of Copacabana and Ipanema earlier today.
The exchange of fire at around 9am in the Cantagalo favela could be heard in hotels and streets surrounding the shanty town.
One man was killed during the gun battle, which started after police were ambushed by armed gangsters during a routine patrol, according to police.