Suspects attempted to escape onto rooftops as police entered the slum in armored vehicles and helicopters flew overhead, television footage showed. The intense exchange of fire kept the residents at home.
Three policemen were shot dead and one died of a head injury in hospital, police said.
Bullets fired during the battle hit a light rail coach and two passengers were injured by shattered glass in the broken window, firefighters said.
Jacarezinho is one of the city’s most populous poor neighborhoods, known as the favelas, with some 40,000 residents.
It is dominated by the Comando Vermelho, one of the main criminal organizations in Brazil. Police consider Jacarezinho to be one of the group’s headquarters.
Thursday’s operation was aimed at investigating the organization’s recruitment of teenagers to hijack trains and commit other crimes, police said in a statement.
They said the criminal gang had a “war structure of soldiers equipped with rifles, grenades, bulletproof vests, pistols, camouflage clothing and other military accessories.”
Police said that among Jacarezinho’s dead were leaders of Comando Vermelho.
Candido Mendes University’s Public Security Observatory said at least 12 police operations in Rio state this year left at least three people dead.
Observatory director Silvio Ramos said Thursday’s raid was one of the deadliest in the city’s recent history.
“This is the highest number of deaths in a police operation in Rio, surpassing 19 in the slum of Complexo do Alemão in 2007, except that we did not lose one of our own in this action”, confirmed Police Chief Ronaldo Oliveira to Reuters.
Many of the raids appear to violate a decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court last year that ordered police to suspend operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is raging in Brazil, limiting them to “absolutely exceptional” situations.
There were 23 dead. And that’s called a security policy. For who? Https: //t.co/BCsqPRlLuw pic.twitter.com/kIj2vC6H5Y
– Pablo Nunes (@pblnns) May 6, 2021
The tweet says: There were 23 dead. And it’s called security policy. [Security] For who?
The Supreme Court declined to comment on the Associated Press question whether Thursday’s operation would qualify.
Rio police killed an average of more than five people a day in the first quarter of 2021, the deadliest start to the year since the state government began regularly releasing such data more than 2021 years ago. two decades, according to the Observatory.