< div> RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – For Ricardo Moraes, a veteran photographer who for 11 years documented life for Reuters in the often dangerous slums of Rio de Janeiro, known as ‘favelas’, the work has started around 6 a.m. on Thursday, when he heard a radio report of a hostage-taking in Sao Carlos, a sprawling tangle of hillside houses near the city center.
The images he would capture – of a young woman, kneeling over her husband’s body, overcome with grief and surrounded by heavily armed police – would end up on the front pages of Brazil’s two largest newspapers. They resonated in a city that’s fed up with the violence, where locals say shootings between aggressive criminal gangs and a notoriously murderous police force are common.
The incident which resulted in the photographs began when a man whom police later identified as a drug dealer held a family of three hostage in a building.
He surrendered, but hours later police exchanged gunfire with other suspects near the lobby, and fighting quickly spread to the surrounding area.
Then another family was taken hostage in a nearby house by another heavily armed group. As negotiations with the police ensued, relatives of the drug gang gathered nearby.
A few hours later, the hostage-takers surrendered and left the second building.
But one of them was missing.
Behind the police, the women approached the house. A corpse was lying on a staircase.
It was then that the subject of Moraes’ photograph burst into tears.
Surrounded by police officers dressed in military-style gear, the footage shows the young woman collapsing in despair as she recognizes the body. Another woman comforts her.
When Moraes visited the local mortuary on Friday morning, he saw the woman again, distraught and surrounded by her family. She agreed to speak.
In a brief interview, the woman, who only identified as Juliana, said she was the wife of the slain man, whom she named Davi Barboza. She said she was four months pregnant with her child. She admitted he was a criminal and called on those breaking the law to make ends meet.
“I want to ask whoever is in this life to come out,” Juliana told Moraes, biting back tears.
“Think about your family because it is very difficult for us. I don’t know how I’m going to get home and never see him again.
Reuters was unable to verify the exact chain of events leading up to Barboza’s death, or the cause of his death. State police said in a statement they exchanged heavy fire with criminals throughout the day and confiscated various weapons, but did not give more details of any individuals in a statement provided to Reuters.
Moraes said when he rushed into the building that morning, he did not expect to encounter such a moving scene.
“But since the coronavirus pandemic hit Brazil, I hear a phrase I thought about when I started photographing Juliana: everyone is loved by someone.
Juliana’s pain is not unique to Brazil, which last year recorded more homicides than any other country in the world. Rio de Janeiro alone recorded 3,025 homicides. Another 1,814 people were killed by the police.
“My husband, he was what he was. But he was a good man, ”Juliana said. “He was my prince.”
Reporting by Ricardo Moraes; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Daniel Wallis
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