Schoolboy Killed in Rio During Police Action

July 17, 2010 Updated: July 18, 2010

RIO DE JANEIRO–An 11-year-old boy in Rio was killed when a stray gunshot entered his classroom during a police operation outside the school. The boy, identified as Wesley Guilber Rodrigues de Andrade, was in math class when the bullet suddenly struck him in the chest Friday morning. He was rushed to Carlos Chagas Hospital but could not be saved.

Officials from the school in Costa Barros, one of the poorest and most violent suburbs of Rio, said the shooting caused hundreds of children to panic, reported Rede Globo TV.

Military police had been conducting an operation in the slums that surround the school in response to a police hotline tip that drug traffickers were in the area.

Eyewitnesses, said in a televised press conference, that the shootout with the suspected criminals began at 8:30 a.m.

General Commandant Mário Sérgio Duarte did not confirm that the child has been hit during the operation, but said the case would be investigated "promptly." During the operation, he said, four suspects were arrested, and six others died in the confrontation with police.

The civilian police homicide division will be carrying out an investigation at the school.

In a televised statement, Police Chief Ricardo Castro, who is overseeing the investigation, said he suspects the fatal shot was fired by one of the drug dealers. He reported that his investigators had seized the weapons of the officers involved to compare them with the bullet that hit the child.

By the close of Friday, the commander in charge of the military police battalion was fired for ordering a police action on the Pedreira hill less than 300 m (985 feet) from the school.

"One goal of the change of command is to ensure total impartiality and accuracy in determining the reasons for the operation and the procedure adopted, resulting in irreparable loss to a family," says a statement on the Military Police press office website.

The child's parents, shaken, did not want to speak to local press.

Angry residents in the neighborhood set off tire fires to protest the shooting, creating new tension with police who were called in to control the riot.