São Paulo Police Blotter: Colonel’s Widow Wonders About “Nickel-Hunter” Connection

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Ângela. Source: Agência Estado, whose photojournalism work is notable for its aesthetic quality (sometimes opting for dramatic impact over conveying actual information, but often impressive noneheless).

Mulher de coronel morto liga PMs bandidos à máfia dos caça-níqueis: “Wife of murdered colonel ties [crooked cops] to gambling rackets,” is the headline in the Estado de S. Paulo today.

Let me just knock off a quick translation of the sidebar to this newsmaker interview, which summarizes the accusations made by the wife of the district patrol commander who was rubbed out execution-style last month. The Estado has made a point of covering the story intensively. Which I, for one, really appreciate.

Caça-níqueis: Ângela Bruno, mulher do coronel José Hermínio Rodrigues, morto em 16 de janeiro, diz que o fato de PMs subordinados a ele terem encontrado envelopes contendo R$ 27 mil, em 25 de maio do ano passado, com o advogado Jamil Chokr, colocou o comandante em risco. O dinheiro seria destinado ao pagamento de propinas da máfia dos caça-níqueis para 84 dos 93 Distritos Policiais de toda a capital

“Nickel-hunter” machines: Ângela Bruno, wife of Col. Hermínio, who was killed on January 16, says the fact that military policemen under his command found envelopes containing R$27,000 last May 25 in the possession of attorney Jamil Chokr, put the commander at risk. The money was allegedly destined for gambling racket payoffs to 84 of the 93 state judicial police precincts in the city.

“Nickel-hunter” machines are what they call yak in Mexico — one-armed bandits, videopoker, that sort of thing.

Corrupção: PMs da zona norte socorreram Chokr, na Marginal do Tietê, após fuga de uma tentativa frustrada de assalto. Além da lista com os DPs que receberiam propinas da máfia, também foram encontrados nomes de policiais em agendas e também no telefone celular de Chokr. O inquérito segue, mas até agora não houve nenhum indiciamento

Corruption: PMs from the Northern Zone stopped to help Chokr on the Tietê beltway after he fled from a failed armed robbery attempt. Besides the list of police precincts that were allegedly getting mafia bribes, the names of policemen were found in datebooks and on the cellular phone belonging to Chokr. The investigation continues but has as yet produced no indictments.

On the case of the Chokr shocker, see also

Execuções: além de uma possível ligação com o caso Chokr, a investigação de participação de PMs da zona norte em grupo de extermínio também pode ser uma das motivações para o assassinato do coronel. Morto com seis tiros de pistola 380, usada por policiais, ele levou chute no rosto por um homem que calçava coturnos pretos, também usados por PMs. Das 11 chacinas de 2007, oito foram na zona norte

Executions: Besides a possible link to the Chokr case, the investigation of PMs involved in a death squad in the region might also have motivated the assassination of the colonel. Killed with six bullets from a .380 pistol of the kind used by police, he was kicked in the face by a man wearing black combat boots, also of the type worn by military policemen. Of the 11 execution-style multiple slayings in São Paulo in 2007, 8 occurred in the Northern Zone.

I though it was 13?

Balística: a pistola que matou Hermínio foi usada em chacina em 29 de junho de 2007, que resultou na morte de seis jovens, no Jardim São Luís

Ballistics: The pistol that killed Col. Hermínio was used in a multiple slaying in June 29, 2007 that left six young men dead in Jardim São Luís.

Prisões: após o exame de balística e outras denúncias, sete PMs do 18º Batalhão ficarão presos, por pelo menos 30 dias, sob suspeita de envolvimento em chacinas e na morte do coronel

Arrests: Based on ballistics testing and other evidence, seven policemen from the 18th Battalion were arrested, to be detained at least 30 days, on suspicion of involvement in death-squad activities and the death of the colonel.

“É coisa de peixe grande.” “Amor, eu incomodo muita gente.” “Estou sendo pressionado.” “Eu corro riscos.” “Estou cansado, quase largando tudo.” “Amor, se eu fechar os olhos, você vai responder a muitas perguntas.” Frases soltas e pontuais, ditas pelo coronel José Hermínio Rodrigues no ano passado, quando assumiu o comando da Polícia Militar na zona norte, só agora começam a fazer sentido para Ângela Bruno, de 43 anos. Ela viveu durante 12 anos com o coronel, assassinado a tiros em 16 de janeiro.

“It involves the big fish.” “Honey, I am making a lot of people uncomfortable.” “I am being pressured.” “I am running risks.” “I am tired, I am about ready to give it all up.” “Honey, if I close my eyes, you are going to be asked a lot of questions.” Terse, random remarks by Col. Hermínio during last year, when he assumed command of military police patrolling in the Northern Zone, which Ângelo Brunto, 43, is only now beginning to understand. She lived for 12 years with the colonel, who was shot to death on January 16.

Ângela acredita que Hermínio possa ter sido executado porque investigava soldados do 18º Batalhão, suspeitos de formar um grupo de extermínio na zona norte – uma das linhas da apuração da Polícia Civil. Ela reclama, contudo, que não está havendo uma investigação para descobrir, por exemplo, a ligação entre os PMs bandidos e a máfia dos caça-níqueis. “O que pode ocorrer é que eles divulgam apenas um motivo, para que o problema dos caça-níqueis fique encoberto. Passado mais de um mês do crime, para mim está tudo muito no ar.”

Ângela believes Hermínio may have been executed because he was investigating soldiers from the 18th Battalion who are suspected of forming a death squad in the area — one of the lines of investigation pursued by the state judicial police. She complains, however, that there has been no investigation to discover, for example, the ties between crooked police and the “nickel-hunter” mafia. “What might happen is that they make public only one possible motive, so the problem of the gambling mob gets covered up. One month after the crime, if you ask me, everything is still up in the air.”

CHOKR

The reputed mob lawyer

As suspeitas de Ângela estão relacionadas a um dos casos mais rumorosos ocorridos na gestão de Hermínio na zona norte: a localização de uma suposta lista de propinas pagas a 84 distritos policiais da capital pela máfia dos caça-níqueis. A lista estava no carro do advogado Jamil Chokr, que sofreu um acidente em maio, quando escapava de um assaltante numa motocicleta. “A máfia dos caça-níqueis, esse levantamento todo, o encontro dos envelopes no carro. Os policiais encontram os envelopes, comunicaram e ele (Hermínio) seguiu o caso e fez o acompanhamento. Eu acho que essa é uma hipótese importante, porque os planos de alguém foram estragados.”

Ângela’s suspicions relate to one of the most controversial cases that occurred during Hermínio’s tenure in the Northern Zone: The discovery of a supposed list of bribes paid to 84 state judicial police precincts in São Paulo by the “nickel-hunter” mafia. The list was found in the car of attorney Jamil Chokr, who suffered a traffic accident in May while escaping from an armed robber on a motorcycle. “The nickel-hunter mafia, that whole investigation, finding the envelopes in the car. The police found the envelopes, told Hermínio about it, and he followed the case. I think this is an important theory of the case, because somebody’s plans got messed up.”

Assistente social, pedagoga e aluna do 5º ano de Direito, Ângela deu, na semana seguinte ao assassinato, mais de dez depoimentos à Corregedoria da PM e ao Departamento de Homicídios e Proteção à Pessoa (DHPP). Ela mantém a crítica a omissões nas investigações mesmo depois do exame de balística segundo o qual a arma usada para matar o coronel foi a mesma utilizada numa chacina, em junho. A chacina já tinha sido atribuída a policiais do 18º Batalhão, apontando a ligação entre os dois crimes.

A social worker, teacher and fifth-year law student, Ângela gave more than ten statements during the week after the murder to military police internal affairs and the homicide bureau (DHPP). She continues to criticize omissions in the investigation, even after a ballistics test showed that the bullet used to kill the colonel came from the same gun used in a multiple execution last June. The execution has already be attributed to policemen from the 18th Battalion, which points to a link between the two crimes.

“Ainda está tudo muito vago. Será que esses policiais agiram sozinhos?”, diz. “Podem ser apenas laranjas de um esquema maior. Para tomar uma decisão como essa, precisavam de respaldo. Essa hipótese está sendo desprezada.”

“Everything is still very vague. Did these police really act on their own?” she asks. “They could just be [foot soldiers] in a bigger scheme. To make a decision like this, you need backing. This theory is being passed over.”

Em 2007, Ângela esteve três vezes na sala de Hermínio, na sede do 3º Comando. Viu uma listagem no computador, com nomes grifados em vermelho e em amarelo, de PMs que receberiam punições. Ela não quis se ater a nomes nem o coronel deu detalhes a respeito. “Ele dizia: ?Isso é coisa pesada?, ?coisa de peixe grande?. Se o assassino não tivesse uma certa cobertura, não teria feito uma ação como essa da forma que foi feita, de manhã, em um local onde passam muitas viaturas”, diz. O coronel foi executado na Avenida Engenheiro Caetano Álvares, no Mandaqui, por um atirador que estava de moto.

In 2007, Ângela visited Hermínio’s office on three occasions, at the headquarters of the Third Command. She saw a list on his computer with names highlighted in red and yellow of PMs who received punishments. She did not want to mention names, nor did the colonel provide details about the matter. “He said, ‘This is a heavy deal, it involves the big fish.'” If the murderer did not have a certain amount of cover, he would never had done what he did in the way that he did it, in the morning, in a place where lots of police cars pass by,” she said. The colonel was executed on Caetano Álvares Avenue, in Mandaqui, by a shooter driving a motorcycle. 

Para Ângela, Hermínio estava no “topo da pirâmide da hierarquia policial”. E, afirma, assim como ocorre nas atividades “do bem”, há uma hierarquia no mundo do crime. “Para essa pessoa matar um coronel da zona norte, da forma como ocorreu, não parece que ela agiu a mando de alguém? Vamos checar: quem é esse alguém? Pode estar envolvido com caça-níqueis e com grupo de extermínio.”

Ângela believer Hermínio was “at the top of the police hierarchy.” And she says that there is a hierarchy of crime, just as there is in the affairs of the “good guys.” “For this person to kill a colonel in the Northern Zone, the way he did, don’t you think he was acting on orders from someone? Let’s check it out: Who was that someone? He could be involved in nickel-hunter machines and a death squad.”

Ângela começou a se relacionar com Hermínio em 1996. Ele ainda era capitão e estava divorciado.Três anos depois, os dois brigaram e Hermínio teve um filho, hoje com 8 anos, com outra mulher. O “deslize” não impediu que os dois reatassem e ficassem juntos até a morte do coronel. “Janeiro não existiu pra mim. Meu ano está começando agora.”

Ângela got personally involved with Hermínio in 1996, when he was still a captain, and recently divorced. Three years later they broke up and Hermínio had a son, now 8, with another woman. This “slip” did not prevent the two from getting back together and staying together until the colonel’s death. “January never happened for me. My year is just starting.”

Apesar do assassinato do companheiro, Ângela afirma que não tem medo de morrer. Mas diz que parentes, colegas de faculdade e da Vara da Infância e da Juventude, onde ela faz estágio, temem por sua vida.

Despite the death of her companion, Ângelia says she is not afraid of dying. But she says that relative and colleagues from the law school and the child services court where she works fear for her life. 

“Estou tranqüila. Porque eu não estou acusando ninguém abertamente. O que eu acho importante é levantar todas as hipóteses. Eu falo somente porque me lembro como ele colocava as frases e da tensão e pressões que sofria. Ele era extremamente fechado. Mas se abria comigo. Não falava tudo, porque, se eu soubesse dos problemas que ele vinha enfrentando, sabia que eu iria pressioná-lo para sair. Quem fez isso com ele, além disso, já deve ter conhecimento da minha existência. Se eles me matarem, vai ficar ainda mais complicado para a pessoa que o matou.”

“I am not afraid. I am not accusing anyone openly. What I think is iimportant is to follow all leads. I am only talking because I remember the things he said and the tension and pressure he suffered. He was an extremely closed-off man. But he opened up to me. He did not tell me everything because, if I knew about the problems he faced, he knew I would push him to leave. The one who did this to him must have known about me. If they kill me, it is going to make it that much more complicated for the person who killed him.”

Ela diz ainda que uma mistura de idealismo com indignação a estimulou a falar. “Eu acredito na Justiça. Se não acreditasse, abandonaria a faculdade de Direito. Pra mim, o Hermínio estava próximo de pegar alguém, seja lá de que lado fosse. Meu interesse é chegar ao crime. Já estou cobrando e vou continuar cobrando.”

She says it was a mixture of idealism and indignation that drove her to talk. “I believe in Justice. If I did not, I would leave law school. If you ask me, Hermínio was close to getting someone, whichever side they were on. What I want is to solve the crime. I am demanding this and I will keep on demanding it.”

Ângela conta que teve um sonho estranho pouco antes da morte do coronel. “Ele aparecia com roupas claras, aparentemente bem, me abraçava e me beijava. Olhava para mim de maneira séria e falava: “Quem sabe fazer faz bem feito”. Talvez ele estivesse me noticiando algo. Para fazer bem feito, tem que ser algo arquitetado. Não acredito que seja coisa de quatro ou cinco policiais. Mas uma coisa maior. Para se chegar a um coronel, que comandava a zona norte, é porque algo incomodava muita gente.”

Ângela says she had a strange dream not long before the colonel died. “He was wearing white clothes, he seemed happy, he hugged and kissed me. He looked at me and said, very seriously, “If you know how to do things, you do them well.” Maybe he was trying to tell me something. To do something well, you have to have something planned out. I do not believe this was just four or five policemen. I think it was something bigger. In order get to a colonel and a district commander, it was because something was making a lot of people uncomfortable.”

Well, we will see. The bereaved widow interview is obligatory but not necessarily very substantial, but still, the Estado has really owned this story under the theory that, as you often hear, “in any minimally civilized place, this would be a huge scandal.”

Which is hard to disagree with. Death squads whacking out senior police officials: That’s just freaking nuts. We plan to try in live in this town, after all.

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