RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Marielle Franco was killed on March 14 at around 9:30 p.m. local time after attending and speaking at a black women’s empowerment event in the city.
Franco was known for fighting for minorities.
She was a bisexual Brazilian of African descent who grew up in one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Franco was also one of Rio de Janeiro’s most outspoken critics of police actions in these areas of the city.
She was a member of Rio de Janeiro’s black, LGBT, feminist and favela communities. Franco leaves behind an 18-year-old daughter and a partner who is the first woman with whom she fell in love.
The Brazilian military currently controls Rio de Janeiro’s police in an attempt to curtail the city’s rampant violence. Franco was, among other things, a member of the commission that monitored the military’s intervention in the city.
She denounced the assassination of young people from the community of Acari on her Twitter account just four days before her murder. Franco fiercely blamed the police’s 41st battalion for abusing their power, calling it “the death battalion.”
As the police continue their investigation into Franco’s murder, it is becoming clear that it was nothing short of an execution. One of the newest developments comes from security cameras in the streets of Lapa, the neighborhood where Franco moderated a political debate about young black women’s role in society.
The cameras showed a silver car was parked outside of the event’s location when Franco arrived.
As she entered the venue to participate in the debate around 7 p.m., an unidentified man got out of the silver car and talked on his phone. Franco and her assistant got in the back seat of her car that her driver was driving. The silver car followed Franco’s car after it left the venue shortly after 9 p.m.
The police are investigating the possibility that another car was involved in the killing and possibility of a car chase happening before the shots were fired at Franco’s, but those instances will need further assessment by the police as they look for other security cameras to show the car’s trajectory on the night of the crime.
Another startling discovery that came from the investigation concerns the ammunition cartridges found at the crime scene. They are a part of a 9 mm bullet lot bought by the federal police in 2016.
This is not the first time that bullets from the federal police have been found at a crime scene.
Members of the São Paulo police department in 2015 who were behind the biggest massacre in the city’s history used the same 9 mm ammunition that were used to kill Franco and her driver. Officers who were seeking revenge for a colleague’s murder executed 17 people.
In a country like Brazil, the discovery of this ammunition raises bigger questions in these and other investigations.
Bought by the federal police to be distributed to other police departments around the country, the 9 mm bullets could have been sold on the black market and many other possibilities that only the tracking of them will be able to answer.
The most important piece of the investigation right now is the testimony of the only survivor of the crime, Franco’s assistant, whose identity is being kept under wraps for safety reasons.
As the investigation progresses, international associations like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognized Franco’s fight for the human rights of minorities in Brazil and demanded a serious, prompt and independent investigation about the crime to seek justice for her family.
A true warrior for equality and dignity of Brazil’s underrepresented groups, Franco would more frequently than not used a phrase on her social media accounts to denounce hate crimes against LGBT Brazilians and young people in the country. As Brazilians try to understand the crime that took the prominent advocate’s life, they are left with the three words that she used: “Stop killing us.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.