Brazil gov: No change in tough policing after girl's death

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro say they won't change hardline policing methods after an 8-year-old girl was allegedly killed by a stray police bullet

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Authorities in Rio de Janeiro said Monday they won't change hardline policing methods after an 8-year-old girl was allegedly killed by a stray police bullet.

Wilson Witzel, governor of Rio state, said Monday that his administration is "on the right track" with its shoot-to-kill policy for officers who see an armed suspect.

Witzel said he was saddened by the death of Ágatha Sales Félix, who was shot in the back on Friday while riding in a van in a Rio slum.

The girl's family says a local police unit was responsible for her death. Police acknowledge that officers in the area used firearms in response to attacks, but have not said whether a police bullet killed the girl.

An investigation is underway.

Marcus Vinícius Braga, the head of state police forces, described Félix's death as an "unfortunate case" but said there were no plans to alter the "successful policy" of the police.

There have been 2,717 homicides in Rio state so far this year, down 21.5 percent from the same period in 2018, according to government statistics.

Critics point to a rise in killings by police. Officers killed 1,249 people in the first eight months of this year in Rio state, up 16 percent compared to the same period a year ago, according to official figures.

Rio state has more than 17 million people.

Witzel acknowledged Félix's death has gained international attention and said it should not be exploited politically as the Brazilian congress examines a set of anti-crime laws.

Some pro-government lawmakers fear Felix's death has added pressure on the lower house to veto a measure that would increase legal protections for police and civilians using lethal force as self-defense.

The measure broadens the right to use lethal force when experiencing "extreme emotion" and "imminent risk," said Robert Muggah, co-founder of the Igarape Institute, which researches public security issues.

Opponents believe the proposal would grant a license to kill for police officers and say existing legislation on self-defense is enough.