Bank robbers in Brazil used human shields to protect their getaway cars after taking hostages in a series of coordinated robberies in the city of Araçatuba on August 30. Videos taken by witnesses show hostages clinging to the roofs of vehicles, apparently having been placed there to protect the criminals from being fired on by police as they made their escape. It was part of an elaborate and well organized scheme meant to cover their escape from the city.
Bank robbers tie hostages to getaway cars
The bank robbers were allegedly members of a notorious Brazilian gang which has carried out complex heists using explosives and speedboats in the past.
The robberies on Sunday were carried out by an estimated 20 well armed gang members at three different banks across the mid-sized city of Araçatuba.
Dozens of bombs were planted around the city and programmed to detonate when anyone approached, presumably intended to distract police from robberies.
After the escape began the robbers used drones to track police movements. In spite of these efforts police say that they have arrested an individual who is accused of orchestrating the scheme.
Three people were killed during the robberies, including one criminal who was identified as a known gang member and one of the hostages, as well as a bystander caught in a crossfire.
The other hostages apparently survived the terrifying ordeal, though a number of people were reportedly injured over the course of the escape.
Na fuga, os reféns foram amarrados nos veículos. Tentativa de impedir qualquer contra-ataque da polícia ao grupo. Deus guarde essas pessoas e todos de Araçatuba. Todas as agências bancárias do centro foram invadidas – informações preliminares. pic.twitter.com/lu0hBlcTCu
— Yuri Macri (@yurimacri) August 30, 2021
Powerful gangs in Brazil
Crime is a major concern in any Brazilian city and in recent years gangs have been organizing increasingly complex and often brutal heists.
The bank robbers in Araçatuba are reportedly linked to one of the largest of these gangs, which has also been known to operate in neighboring Paraguay.
In 2017 and 2020 the group is accused of orchestrating similarly elaborate attacks using explosives and taking hostages as human shields.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who faces a difficult upcoming reelection campaign, won in part due to his promises to be tough on crime.
Even if Bolsonaro is reelected in 2022 he will face an enormous challenge in attempting to crack down on criminals who are seemingly becoming more brazen.
The Araçatuba bank robbers were heavily armed and well organized enough to make any number of problems for local police.