Note from BW of Brazil: Needless to say, stories such the one being presented today are heartbreaking and usually totally unnecessary. The story of 13-year old João Victor first broke about nine days ago and and is just the latest example of how life is so little valued in Brazil. The story took place in the north zone of São Paulo in front of a popular chain restaurant and as more and more details continued to come out, I decided, as I have in past articles, to wait until more information was available about the case; and for good reason. With the recent release of a security camera video, the facts surrounding the controversial death and possible murder are beginning to fall into place.
My position on this case is similar to other incidents in which actions lead to someone’s death. In large metropolitan cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and others, it is common to find children, teenagers and adults in the streets selling snacks, water or simply asking for spare change. In such drastically unequal urban regions where access to middle class lifestyles is anything but equal, people understandably turn to their only actions to survive and sometimes those actions include petty crime, robbery, assault and even murder. Of course I don’t condone crime, but in societies that don’t seem to care about masses of people excluded from all that life has to offer, what is it that we should expect from people whose aspirations each day often aren’t how to attain the latest luxury automobile but rather simply getting enough food to live to see another day. As usual, I will reserve complete judgement on this case and label it a homicide as all of the facts are still not in, but there’s no denying that this is what it looks like….Again.
And as you read the details of this latest incident with conflicting versions of the story that led to yet another death, also keep in mind Brazil’s penchant for killing young black people.
Adolescent dies in front of Habib’s restaurant in the north zone of São Paulo
According to the family of the boy, he was attacked by the employees after asking for money from customers at the door of the establishment
The Civil Police will investigate the actions of security guards of the Habib’s restaurant on Avenida Itaberaba, in Vila Nova Cachoeirinha, in north zone São Paulo, on the death of João Victor Souza de Carvalho, 13 years old. The case occurred on Sunday night, February 26th. According to the boy’s family, he was allegedly assaulted by employees after asking for money from customers at the door of the establishment. He then had respiratory arrest and died before arriving at the Mandaqui Hospital.
Representatives of the Habib’s unit told police officers of the 13th DP (in the Casa Verde district) that João Victor was known locally for asking for money and food from customers. But that night, he was “pestering customers, including with a piece of wood.” “The teenager threatened to break the restaurant’s window and even threw stones at cars and one of the employees.”
Also according to the representatives, a manager and a supervisor, when the employees went to reprimand João Victor, the boy “ran off and at that moment had a sudden illness.” The boy fell in the middle of the street, according to this version. The security guards involved were not heard by police chief Julio Siqueira Gomes.
Firefighters and the Military Police (MP) were called by residents. The MPs reported that they had gone to respond ro an “occurrence of aggression,” but by the time they reached Habib’s the boy had already been taken by the rescue unit.
João Victor was killed on the way to Mandaqui. According to the fire department, the boy showed no signs of aggression. The doctors of the hospital said, in a letter sent to the police, that the death “was due to unknown cause”. The Medical-Legal Institute (IML) will prepare a report to clarify the cause of João Victor’s death. The document should be ready within 15 days.
João Victor was buried on Tuesday, the 28th, in the Cemetery of Vila Cachoeirinha. His mother, Fernanda Cassia de Souza, who turned 34 at the end of February, said that her son was always at Habib’s door asking for customers’ spare change, even against his parents’ wishes. “When he left the house, I was sure that we would find him there, he never attacked anyone, he never stole, and so he was never arrested, it is very strange to say that he had sudden illness, because he was in perfect health.”
Fernanda also said she went to Habib’s as soon as she learned of the incident with her son. At the location, some customers said they witnessed João Victor being attacked in front of the restaurant by security guards. “Some customers were at the funeral, one of them said he gave him some change before this tragedy happened.”
Fernanda also has daughters of, 19, 17 years and 5 years. On Monday afternoon the 27th, the family and a group of friends made a protest in front of the Habib’s of the Itaberaba Avenue and asked for justice. “If my son was wrong, let him be reprimanded. What happened was a tragedy that brought down our family,” she said.
In a statement, a Habib’s representative said he considered the case lamentable. “The franchisor takes into account the information reported by the employees of the franchise unit, present at the time of the occurrence, as well as the reports recorded by the police. The police were into the case as soon as it was verified that the minor’s conduct was uncontrollable, threatening the physical patrimony of the store and its customers. Immediately, the rescue was also put into action.”
The spokesperson also reported that they took steps to rescue João Victor and will “endeavor to clarify all the details of the incident with priority.”
Witness confirms security aggression before the death of the boy André Miguéis
Witness Silvia Helena Troti, 59, confirmed to police Wednesday that she had witnessed the attack on João Victor committed by “a strong, fat, moreno man in a Habib’s uniform” that punched the boy in the head, a fact that led him to fainting and possibly death.
In her testimony, Silvia, a collector of recyclable material and a street vendor, said that around 7:00 PM, when she was selling candy near Habib’s, she saw João Victor running in the street, being chased by a security guard and the manager of the establishment. The chase ended when the security guard grabbed the young man by the throat, encouraged by the manager who told him to restrain the young man.
Silvia Helena also stated that she saw another “tall and thin” Habib’s employee pull the boy, trying to raise him up, doing so with the help of the first aggressor. Subsequently they headed back to Habib’s. The child collapsed on the way and, according to the witness, was foaming at the mouth.
With the arrival of the Military Police there, Silvia went to the police to tell what she had seen. Authorities, however, said she could not be a witness “because she was mentally incompetent.” She was not taken to the police station and only testified because she voluntarily went to the 28th DP, where the case was being investigated.
In the video posted by the site last Thursday it is possible to see the boy crossing the street running and being followed by two men. After a while, they return to the vicinity of Habib’s dragging the child and throwing him on the ground. Apparently, João Victor had fainted and showed no reaction.
Video shows 13-year old João Victor being chased & dragged
The family’s lawyer said that the images are already in the hands of police chief Antonio Celso Berna Peduti, of 28º precinct (Freguesia do Ó region), responsible for the investigation “The Civil Police clarified that the 28th Police District is investigating the death of João Victor de Souza Carvalho, 13, on Sunday night (26), in front of a restaurant. The case was registered in the 13th DP as a suspected death. Police are awaiting results from the reports to confirm the cause of death.”
Lawyer of victim’s family sees flaws in investigation
Lawyer Ariel de Castro Alves, who is representing João Victor’s family, defends the thesis that there were serious flaws in the actions of the MP who responded to the case “If the MPs had given credit to the witness [at the time of arrival], the perpetrators of this barbaric crime would have been arrested [in the act].” According to the lawyer, the police didn’t listen to the witness and called her a drug user. Another complaint on the part of Alves is about the delay of the police chief in initiating the investigation, “The facts (of which) occurred at 7:00 pm on the 26th. The registration occurred only at 4:00 AM on the 27th.”
Alves also said that the investigation of homicide cases cannot be stopped because of holidays. “It’s already been time for Habib’s to make the images disappear or edit them,” she said.
After the disclosure of a video recorded by a security camera, Habib’s announced the removal of the employees. “With the images released by the press today, they announced that they have decided to remove the employees involved until everything is clarified,” Habib’s said in a note, in a posture of extreme coldness and denoting a total lack of solidarity with the family of the child possibly murdered by its employees.
João Victor’s parents, accompanied by relatives and also activists, held a protest this week in front of Habib’s store where João Victor died. During the act the boy’s mother gave testimony to media outlets calling for justice. It is hoped that all rights will be guaranteed to this suffering family, as well as the punishment of all those involved in the case, from the employees (criminally) to the company (financially) that placed assassins to represent it.
In testimony to the police chief Peduti, on Wednesday afternoon (1st of March), João Victor’s father Marcelo Fernandes de Carvalho, 42, said his son had been threatened by security guards at the restaurant two months ago. He added that João Victor did not cause embarrassment to clients, because he was always on the outside of commerce.
In social networks, boycott of Habib’s grows
On Sunday (5), relatives and friends of João Victor protested in two stores of the fast food chain to demand the punishment of those involved.
Outraged by the involvement of two employees of the Habib’s fast food chain in João Victor’s death, on Carnival Sunday (26), there is a growing movement of Internet users protesting and calling for a boycott of the company. In the most widespread message, on Facebook and Twitter, users accuse the chain of racism, accompanied by the motto “No child less.”
Protest against the death of 13-year old João Victor
In addition to the messages in their own profiles, web users flooded Habib’s institutional page, demanding justice for the boy’s death. Virtual “vomiting” is also another form of protest used. Journalist Hildegard Angel also endorsed the boycott. “What a horror Habib’s attitude is. Beating up a fragile child, causing his death; hearts of steel. I don’t pass even through the door. Boycott!” she posted on Twitter.
Last Sunday (5), relatives and friends of João Victor, backed by movements linked to human rights, held a protest outside the restaurant where the incident took place. They walked along Avenida Inajar de Souza for about two hours, interdicting two lanes of the road, until arriving at another unit of Habib’s, on the west side of the capital. In both stores, the service was suspended and the employees were dismissed.