Mentally Ill Man Asphyxiated in Police Car

Officers in Brazil 'turned a car into a gas chamber,' activist says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2022 4:50 PM CDT
Mentally Ill Man Asphyxiated in Police Car
Bruno Candido speaks Saturday during a protest sparked by the?asphyxiation death of a mentally ill Black man in a police car in Rio de Janeiro.   (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)

(Newser) – Anger and protests in Brazil have followed the death of a Black man who was gassed in police custody. After a traffic stop, officers in the city of Umbaúba put the man in the back of a police car, then set off a gas grenade, the Guardian reports. "Police officers turned a car into a gas chamber and executed a mentally ill man," Renata Souza, a Black activist and politician, posted on Twitter. Highway police said in a statement that officers employed "immobilization techniques" and "instruments of minor offensive potential" when the man became aggressive. The funeral for Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, 38, was held Thursday.

Video shows the officers forcing Santos into the back of a police SUV and keeping him there while dense white smoke—apparently tear gas—billows out of the vehicle, per CBS News. Eventually, the man stops kicking. The officers show no reaction to the onlookers who gathered, one of whom can be heard saying, "They're going to kill the guy." An autopsy found the cause of death to be asphyxiation. In a statement, police said Santos was taken to the hospital when he became ill on the way to a police station; relatives said he was dead on arrival.

Santos' family said he had schizophrenia and was on medication for it. His nephew, Alisson de Jesus, who was there, said he told the officers that his uncle wasn't well before they released the tear gas. "It was a torture session," the nephew said. "They took my uncle, put him inside the vehicle and took a gas bomb and held the trunk closed with him inside." Brazilian media reported that the five officers involved were put on leave, pending the results of an investigation. A nonpartisan Brazilian organization reports that the nation's police killed 6,416 people in 2020, nearly 80% of whom were Black. (Read more Brazil stories.)

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