Brazil: Two ex-policemen arrested over murder of Marielle Franco

Franco, a black, gay activist and councilwoman was shot dead in 2018 in a case prosecutors say was politically motivated

Marielle Franco
Franco's murder prompted mass protests in the country [File: Fabio Vieira/FotoRua/NurPhoto/Getty Images]

Sao Paulo, Brazil – Two former police officers were arrested early on Tuesday morning in Rio de Janeiro over last year’s murder of black activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes.

Ronnie Lessa and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz are accused of participating in the murders of Franco and Gomes, according to a police statement sent to Al Jazeera. Their arrest comes two days before the anniversary of the deadly drive-by shooting.

According to prosecutors, Queiroz drove the car that ambushed Franco, while Lessa fired the shots that hit the activist in her neck and head. 

Lessa and Queiroz are also accused of attempted murder of Franco’s press secretary, who was also in the car the night of the shooting but suffered only minor injuries. 


“This is absolutely great news and I commend the local authorities”, Monica Benicio, Marielle Franco’s widow, told Al Jazeera over the phone.

“But the real question remains: Who ordered Marielle’s killings?”

According to the prosecutor’s office, “it is undisputed that Marielle Francisco da Silva was summarily executed because of the political causes that she defended.”

Franco, who was a black, lesbian Rio de Janeiro councilwoman for the Socialism and Liberty Party, was born in the Mare favela. During her life and after her death she became a symbol of resistance against police brutality and the presence of armed groups in the city and throughout Brazil.

She regularly denounced police abuse and stood up for the rights of women and the LGBT community. 

The questions “Who killed Marielle?” and “Who ordered Marielle’s killing?” became nationwide slogans for justice for issues regarding women and black Brazilians.

Wilson Witzel, Rio de Janeiro’s governor, said authorities could open a “second investigation” into Franco’s murder “if necessary”. 

“We have done great strides and I’m sure we will move forward even more,” he said.

According to police, Queiroz had been expelled from the force in 2011 after being arrested in an operation connecting police officers with armed groups and drug traffickers. Lessa retired after a bomb attempt against him. Before that, he received a distinction from Rio’s parliament. 

Protests marking the one year anniversary of Franco’s murder are scheduled for Thursday. 

Source: Al Jazeera