RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – An angry mob destroyed police stations and a courthouse in two Amazon towns while trying to lynch murder suspects, officials said Monday. One man was killed during the rioting and 44 people were arrested.
"It was like something out of the movies," police Lt. Marcelo Albuquerque said of the mob of 500 to 600 people, many of them motorcycle taxi drivers (search) bent on avenging the slaying of a colleague.
The riot was precipitated by the arrest Saturday of two suspects for the killing of Manoel Ailson Silvino Borges (search), a 26 year-old motorcycle taxi driver in Salinopolis, a coastal town of 40,000 people about 1,600 miles north of Rio de Janeiro.
On Sunday, a group of motorcycle taxi drivers headed to the neighboring town of Capenema, where the men had been arrested, intent on killing them, Albuquerque said.
Upon discovering that for administrative reasons the suspects had been transferred to Belem, the state capital, the taxi drivers rioted in a police station, stealing guns, destroying official documents and setting the station on fire. Two police motorcycles were also burned.
The mob then returned to Salinopolis, where they were met by the mayor and police chief at the city limits in a failed attempt to avoid a repeat of the violence. The mob burned the police station and the courthouse and freed 20 prisoners from the jail. Several police cars were burned in the rioting.
One man was killed in the rioting and several policemen suffered minor injuries, Albuquerque said. Details of the death were not immediately available.
"We don't think it was the motorcycle taxi drivers who were really responsible, but rather local bandits who decided to take advantage of the situation," Albuquerque said. He said the situation was under control Monday after over 150 policemen from around the state had been dispatched to keep the peace.