KILLED FROM BEHIND, NO CHANCE OF DEFENSE
Within hours, word came that the first hearing in the case had been scheduled. But, afterwards, it was postponed to the following year. That same month, there was also an act in front of the Forum of Jaboatão dos Guararapes, the municipality where the crime took place.
In 2020, Jhones’ family, friends and neighbors had already occupied the Internal Affairs Unit of the Social Defense Secretariat and the Palace of Campo das Princesas (residence of the governor of the state of Pernambuco) in order to press for the conclusion of the Civil Police inquiry and ask for the opening of an internal investigation in the body that disciplines and controls the actions of police officers in the state.
The SDS informed that a Disciplinary Board procedure had been set up “in disfavor” of the policeman who shot Jhones and that the procedure is still in progress.
During the event in Jaboatão, Jhones’ mother, Maria Solange Ferreira, told the press: “It’s been a year since his death and so far nothing has been resolved, I want justice so that this case doesn’t go unpunished. The police officer involved is retired at home because he had already entered retirement the day before the approach against my son”.
"I'M VERY AFRAID THAT JUSTICE WILL NOT BE DONE BECAUSE UNFORTUNATELY, JUSTICE HAS ITS FLAWS AND WHEN IT COMES TO A POLICE OFFICER, EVERYTHING IS MORE DIFFICULT AND COMPLICATED."
– Jéssica, older sister
From that moment on, according to the conclusion of the Civil Police inquiry, the versions of the military police do not hold up. The driver of the patrol car, who pointed the gun at the motorcycle rider, said in a first statement that Jhones got out with a firearm in his hand. In cross-examination, he stated that the victim disembarked from the motorcycle pulling an object from his waist and ran. Then, he would have turned to the motorcycle rider, fearing that he would also try to leave the place, when he heard the shot and, in the sequence, saw Jhones’ body on the ground.
The military police sergeant who killed the 17-year-old alleged that Jhones got off the bike already pulling an object from his waistband and putting his hands behind his back and that Jhones was going to hide behind a car and he shot at him because he believed the young man would fire against the police.
The sergeant stated that after the shooting he went to Jhones to retrieve the weapon and saw that it was a simulacrum of a firearm. He said that he also found a cell phone in the victim’s genitals and another in the pocket of his shorts, but he was unable to say the make and model. Two other vehicles from GATI (Tactical Itinerant Support Group) then arrived at the site to provide support. The police who approached the youths put Jhones in the trunk of one of the cars and led him to a UPA (Emergency Service Unit). From there he was transferred to the Hospital da Restauração where he died.
No eyewitnesses to the approach confirmed the sergeant’s version that Jhones carried or had beside or near his body on the ground any simulacrum of a firearm or even two cell phones. Witnesses spoke of a single cell phone seized by the police. One of them reported that the GATI officers asked for the weapon and searched under the cars and found nothing. The young man who was riding the motorcycle was handcuffed and taken to the 6th Military Police Battalion. He said in his statement to the Civil Police that Jhones had only one cell phone that day and did not see any simulacrum of a firearm with him. He denied that he and Jhones had committed robberies and reported that the motorcycle he was riding belonged to his mother.
On Oct. 1, the civil police chief of the 11th Homicide Precinct presented his final report with the indictment of the military police sergeant who killed Jhones. “Contrary to what the officers reported, Jhones was not carrying any object similar to a firearm, much less was seen by any eyewitnesses, except for the sergeant’s partner, some object similar to a firearm lying on the ground near the Jhones’ body or any other object that could pose a danger to the police team”.
The police chief drew attention to the fact that the policeman accompanying the sergeant who killed Jhones stated, in his second statement, that he had not seen the objects seized at the time of the approach, which only happened when he arrived at the 6th Military Police Battalion. “In other words, one of the police officers who made the approach is not able to specify the veracity of the objects collected, nor whether at the time the victim was carrying a firearm or simulacrum”, explains the investigator.
“It is not clear that the security agent was in a situation of self-defense, article 25 of the CP (Penal Code), as, based on the vast report of the eyewitnesses present in the file, none of them witnessed the victim carrying any object that could characterize an unjust aggression against the police team. The simple fact that the boy escapes from the place of approach without showing any violent reaction against the policeman, does not allow the security agent to shoot him with the aim of hitting him, as this is not a hypothesis of unfair aggression. Thus, there is no hypothesis of excluding the illegality of the facts extracted from this inquiry”, concludes the police chief to justify the indictment of the sergeant for murder.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled on opening a criminal case for murder against the police officer on November 19, 2020. The complaint was received at the 1st Court of Jury of Jaboatão on March 31, 2021. Since then, the family has been waiting for the first court hearing.
“HE WILL ALWAYS BE
REMEMBERED BY HIS FAMILY”
Jhones’ death has deeply shaken his older sister Jessica, now 20 years old. “He really got scared and when we get scared a lot happens in our minds, but it wasn’t because he was involved in anything, he had his shirt on. When he ran, (the policeman) took aim at the head and pulled the trigger. And everyone knows that the most fatal points are the heart and the head, they are the points of the body where we have no chance of surviving”.
Jhones had completed the 5th year of elementary school. He had been living with his mother for three months, but he often went to his father’s house, where Jessica, a younger sister and another brother live. He worked in a mechanical shop nearby. He was commonly seen smeared with grease by neighbors and friends. He took his last motorcycle ride on the sidewalk in front of his father’s house, on August 5, 2020.
“Jhones had always been very cheerful. He played and danced at New Year’s parties. He would have turned 18 last year. This year I turn 20 and he would turn 19. I wonder if this pain will ever go away. But there will always be something missing in our hearts.” Moved, Jessica told the report that if she ever has children and nephews, she will tell Jhones’ stories so that he will always be remembered by the family, never forgotten.
Today, she says she lives in fear. According to her, right after her brother’s death, it was common for many police officers to be around her house. She especially fears for the youngest. At just 13 years old, he has been approached at least twice by the police, once while skating in front of his family’s house and once when he was in an uber.
Jhones himself, according to Jessica, had already been the victim of an aggressive approach by the Military Police. She says that eight months before the crime, on December 31, 2019, her brother was slapped in the face by a police officer. The family felt intimidated and did not press charges.
In the inquest that indicted the military police sergeant who killed Jhones, it appears that the young man had already been arrested twice and then released, once for contempt and once for suspicion of robbery that was not proven.
Jessica fears the crime will go unpunished. “I’m very afraid that there is no justice, because unfortunately justice is flawed and when it comes to a police officer, it’s all the more difficult and complicated. They say the defendant is on the loose and cannot have a hearing now because of the pandemic. There’s always an excuse for not getting a hearing in Jhones’ case. All we ask for is that at least justice is done”.
Attorney Maria Clara D’Ávila, from the Office of Legal Advice to Popular Organizations (GAJOP) believes that the justice system is not prepared to deal with police officers in the dock. “And we don’t have a court system prepared for that. Why? In these cases, the victims are black people, poor people, people living in criminalized territories. And the defendants are police officers. And they are covered by this entire narrative construction that the murder of people would be legitimate, provided that in a situation of public security operation. This makes the Judiciary take much longer to move”.