Olympic officer shot in head after wrong turn into slum

The Justice Ministry said Vieira was recovering after a four-hour surgery, and was in stable condition. The other officers suffered minor injuries when the windows of their vehicle shattered.

Dozens of heavily armed commandos could be seen Thursday frisking residents and going house to house in the Mare complex of slums.   -  Getty Images

Elite special forces raided a slum in Rio de Janeiro Thursday after officers providing security at the Olympics made a wrong turn and encountered gunfire. One police officer was shot in the head, and was recovering at a local hospital.

The officers from Brazil’s national security force were using a GPS device to navigate unfamiliar streets when they took a wrong turn off a highway leading to Rio’s international airport. Its truck was sprayed with bullets, and one officer, Helio Vieira, was shot in the head.

The Justice Ministry said Vieira was recovering after a four-hour surgery, and was in stable condition. The other officers suffered minor injuries when the windows of their vehicle shattered.

Dozens of heavily armed commandos could be seen Thursday frisking residents and going house to house in the Mare complex of slums, one of Rio’s most crime-ridden areas that is dominated by drug-trafficking gangs. Snipers took up positions on a nearby highway, as a low-flying police helicopter circled overhead.

Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said two suspects had been identified but were not yet in custody. He denounced what he called a “cowardly attack.” The incident was the bloodiest of several that have marred the start of South America’s first Olympic Games.

On Tuesday, two windows were shattered on a bus carrying journalists from an Olympic venue in the impoverished Deodoro district. Rio organizers said the bus was hit by a rock, even though one passenger, who identified herself as a former American military officer, believed the cause to be gunfire. There was no serious injury.

The equestrian venue in Deodoro has had two brushes with stray gunfire since the games started. A bullet flew through the roof of a media tent there Saturday; officials said it had been fired from a hillside slum, and that the intended target was probably a security camera on a blimp. A second bullet hit Wednesday near the stables. Officials were adding more security at the venue.

Muggings has also been reported among Olympic athletes, officials and journalists. Pervasive violence is an everyday part of life in Rio. After declines in past years, homicides has spiked again as Brazil’s worst recession in decades fuels violence and forces budget cuts. The number of homicides in the first five months of 2016 increased by 18 percent to 1,870 in greater Rio.

Police killings is also on the rise, with the vast majority of victims black residents of impoverished slums that is fiefdoms of the city’s many criminal gangs.

More than 85,000 security forces double the number present in London in 2012 has been deployed to the city to keep thousands of Olympic athletes and an estimated 500,000 tourists safe