Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro
Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

Note from BW of BrazilYou just never know when and where something’s gonna pop off, particularly in a city as violent as Rio de Janeiro. So, when someone in one of my WhatsApp groups posted a video in he/she subtitled, “What is going on in Rio?”, I wondered what I was about to watch. Upon clicking on the video, I immediately heard the sound of a rifle going off in the first two seconds of the video. Not sure what I had just seen, I needed to watch the beginning again and again before I saw a body, in a white t-shirt suddenly drop to the ground. What the hell did I just see? Watching the rest of the minute, 24 second video that was apparently broadcast live on SBT TV, I suddenly heard the cheers of an audience that watched the entire ordeal. Again, WTF is going here?

Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro
Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

When the news reports started coming along with the photos, my mind instantly thought of the 2002 documentary, Ônibus 174, about a man who had hijacked a bus in Rio de Janeiro. Having begun studying social/racial conditions in Brazil just two years previously, the scenes from that film were some of the most shocking I had seen related to the country up to that point. As the years went by, I was exposed to even more gruesome, chilling images that is everyday life in a very violent country.

Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro
Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

What I saw at the very beginning of the video was the conclusion of a three and a half hour stand-off between the young bus hijacker and Rio’s security agents. Eventually, the young hijacker made the foolish mistake of getting off the bus, which is exactly when a sniper sharpshooter standing on the top of a fire truck took the young assailant down. And everything was captured live in a Brazil where people are accustomed to seeing sensationalist videos of violent crimes as they happen. 

As the ordeal came to an end, all I could think about was how two of Brazil’s most open supporters of more police violence, President Jair Bolsonaro and Rio Governor Wilson Witzel would use this incident as a reason drive home their trigger happy ideals on how to promote ”security” in a Brazil that has a about one third of the 50 most violent cities in the entire world. What I don’t expect these two pieces of work to get is how Brazil’s very social structure will continue to breed citizens who take such outlandish actions in a country that continues to show that it cares nothing about them. 

Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro
Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

Niterói hijacker had a case of depression and lived on the internet, says, family 

Information courtesy of Gaúcha ZH

A young man, who held 39 people hostage on a bus for almost four hours, was shot while getting off the vehicle and died in a hospital. After two hours of negotiation, police psychologists concluded that Willian Augusto da Silva had psychotic traits.

Willian Augusto da Silva, 20 years old, was introspective, lived on the Internet, had difficulties relating to real people and suffered from depression, family members reported to Rio de Janeiro police of the man who hijacked a bus and, for almost four hours, held 39 people hostage in the vehicle, standing on the Rio-Niterói bridge, on Tuesday morning (20).

Reports were also made by some of the hostages. Notary public assistant Robson de Oliveira, who takes the 2520 bus every day at the same time to go to work, said he had contact with the hijackers’s cousin, who apologized on behalf of the family.

A native of São Gonçalo, Silva lived in the Jardim Catarina neighborhood with his parents, his father, a baker, and his mother, a caregiver for the elderly, according to the police.

He was from São Gonçalo from where the 2520 bus departed, the same bus he boarded on Tuesday morning. But the Viação Galo Branco bus did not reach its destination, Estácio, in downtown Rio. By order of the hijacker, the bus was stopped slanted on the Rio-Niterói bridge.

Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro
Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

At the time of the crime, Silva carried in his backpack, in addition to the toy pistol his waved, a knife and taser used in the hijacking and a biography of German-born but naturalized American writer Charles Bukowski known for his works of obscene character.

His mother, Renata Paula da Silva, declared that her son was anxious, introspective and taking medication. In January, at a family party, he reportedly shared his emotional condition with relatives. According to a cousin, identified as Alexander, it was a depressive condition.

Recently, Silva stopped helping his father at work because he claimed to have leg pain – until the conclusion of this report the police had no information on the suspect’s profession. Last weekend, Silva went out with his family, that he considered very close.

“Thank God it’s just my family crying today,” said his cousin.

The director of the homicide division that is investigating the case, Antonio Ricardo Lima Nunes, says he is working on the case from the hypothesis of a planned hijacking.

“We believe the hijacking was premeditated,” he said.

Relatives said he had already researched hijacking actions on the internet while passengers reported that he claimed that he would be famous. On the eve of the abduction, Silva left his parents’ house and went to his grandmother’s house. He took the bottles of which he filled with gasoline to threaten to set the bus on fire. At no time, however, was the hijacker violent, hostages told police. He repeated several times that he didn’t want to hurt anyone and that he didn’t want the money from the people on the vehicle.

After two hours of negotiation, police psychologists concluded that he had psychotic traits and was unstable. They then recommended tactical action, said Maurilio Nunes, commander of the Special Operations Battalion (Bope).

When Silva left the bus, a sniper fired. Shot, he fell and was taken by ambulance to the Souza Aguiar hospital, where he went into cardiac arrest and died.

Criminal wanted to repeat hijacking of bus 174 and go down in history

Silva said he wanted to repeat the hijacking of bus 174, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 2000, and “go down in history”. The report is courtesy of passengers who spent almost four hours as hostages of the assailant. None of the hostages were injured.

“William just said he wanted to go down in history, that we were going to have a lot of history to tell. That’s all he said,” said Professor Hanz Miller, 34.

The hijacker got on the bus around 5:10 am on Tuesday (20) and after some time of travel, raised a (fake) gun, which scared the passengers.

“He said ‘calm down, guys, I don’t want to hurt anyone’”, said Hanz.

Hanz says the kidnapper didn’t try to take money from passengers, even making fun of the situation.

“He said he wanted the state’s money. He didn’t want our money. Willian himself asked the passengers to call the police. The criminal ordered everyone to close the bus curtains and requested radio communication with the police. And when he got the device, he asked one of the passengers to write with lipstick on the bus glass for police to contact him to negotiate. The scene goes back to the hijacking of bus 174 in 2000.

In that crime, an assailant, Sandro Barbosa do Nascimento, and a hostage, Geísa Firmo Gonçalves, were killed after more than five hours of negotiations. The case was aired live on television.

At night, Sandro agreed to surrender after many signs of nervousness and violence. He got off the bus with a gun pointed at Geísa. In the Bope Military Police action, the hostage was shot and killed. The assailant was even placed in the van where he was choked by PMs and also died.

This Tuesday, according to the passengers, Willian was energetic throughout the action and said he wanted to maintain the adrenaline rush. The hijacker would then chose one of the passengers to tie up the rest.

Some passengers managed to break free and text their family members. Daniele Caria was at home when she received a message from her husband, Carlos Pereira da Silva, saying that she was inside a hijacked bus.

“I couldn’t calm down,” she said.

“He said the bandit didn’t threaten to kill them at any time, saying to stay calm.” He said that he would stop the city. But the moment of tension was when he began to pour gasoline on the bus,” says Daniele.

Hanz explains that the hijacker asked passengers to tie a string to the roof of the bus. Willian tied it to the bottom of the bottle where he put a product that was supposedly gasoline.

“He put the gas in and said he didn’t want to set the bus on fire. But he never threatened us, he said it wouldn’t hurt anyone. We got tense, afraid of the gasoline falling. At no moment did he say he was going to set it on fire,” said Hanz.

“I was scared because he manipulated the lighter. He repeated that he hadn’t slept in six days,” said receptionist Rafaela Gama, 20. According to her, Willian followed the repercussion of the hijacking on his cell phone and laughed.

Willian even told the police negotiator that he wanted to stop the state with the traffic jam that formed. During the abduction, Hanz, who was at the back of the bus, wrote a note with lipstick and placed it between the window he was in and the curtain. In the message, addressed to the police surrounding the bus, it said: “He’s in front, standing.”

In another message, written in pencil, the teacher wrote: “He’s alone, armed, but hasn’t robbed anyone.”

“I wrote that and put it between the curtain and the glass without him seeing. I took advantage of the moments when his back was turned,” said Hanz.

At one point, looking at the sea under the Rio-Niterói bridge, Willlian would asked about the depth of the water. According to accountant Lafaiete Resende, another hostage, Willian ordered that the last seats of the bus be released so that passengers could use the space as a bathroom. The criminal said that the hijacking would take more time.

During the negotiation, headed by highway police and the Shock Battalion, the criminal freed six hostages: four men and two women. Upon being rescued, one of the victims passed out on the asphalt.

One of the hostages released at that time was Robson de Oliveira, who was feeling ill.

“I was worried because he said he wanted to re-live the (bus) 174 story,” Robson said.

At about 9 am, William left the bus, according to hostage reports, to deliver items of one of the passengers he had just released. He wore a mask that showed only his eyes and kept one hand on his waist. With his other hand, he threw a jacket at the cops and waved.

Vídeo mostra momento em que sequestrador é morto por atirador no Rio
Willian Augusto da Silva hijacks a bus with a toy gun in Rio de Janeiro

He tried to return to the bus, but was hit by shots fired by a sniper who was on top of a fire truck on the bridge. After the shots, the PM shooter gave a thumbs up to indicate that he had hit the criminal. At that moment, the police and people watching the scene celebrated.

Inside the bus, the feeling was still of apprehension.

“The most tense moment was when he was shot by the police, afraid that he’ll catch someone, as happened on 174. I realized he didn’t want to hurt anyone, he only wanted the repercussion. The Rio de Janeiro Military Police did a perfect job. Forget the mayor, forget the governor. The police were perfect,” declared Carlos Pereira.

Following the hijacking, at the police station, a relative of Willian apologized to the hostages, claiming that his cousin had mental problems and depression and that he lived on the Internet.

According to police, despite the emotional shock, all 31 released passengers are doing well.

Sandro Nascimento threatens hostage during 2000 assault in Rio – scene depicted in documentary Ônibus 174

Hijacking in Rio recalls case depicted in documentary “Ônibus 174”

Movie released in 2002 reveals filmmaker José Padilha

For nearly four hours on  Tuesday morning, the hijacking of a bus with passengers captured the attention of Brazil. Faced with the live images broadcasted on TV, the episode recalled another kidnapping of a bus that also had as its backdrop Rio de Janeiro, in 2000, but ended tragically. From the case emerged the documentary Ônibus 174 (Bus 174), a 2002 film that was the debut of filmmaker José Padilha (of Tropa de Elite/Elite Squad).

Bus 174 ordeal was detailed in documentary film

In 2008, the story was staged as fiction in the feature film Última Parada 174, directed by Bruno Barreto.

On the afternoon of June 12, 2000, 35 million Brazilians embarked on a direct journey to the heart of urban violence and social exclusion. The documentary Ônibus 174  recovers the story of the assault that became a hijacking – and that for five hours terrorized  the passengers of a bus in Rio, broadcast live on TV across the country. There were 128 harrowing minutes from which the certainty of horror hadn’t reached its destination.

Director José Padilha was one of the viewers who watched the incident unfold with the bus that left the Rocinha favela that day and stopped at the Jardim Botânico, taken by the 21-year-old assailant Sandro do Nascimento, who took the passengers hostage after the driver’s escape. From mid-afternoon to early evening, negotiations broke out between the marginal and the police, marked by disastrous decisions by the authorities and death threats to the hostages.

Da Silva admitted to being inspired by 2000 incident that also took place in Rio

The outcome was as tragic as all the circumstances of the case: one hostage was killed as a result of wrongful police action, and Sandro died asphyxiated in the car that would take him to the police station. Brazil didn’t take its eyes off the TV, strained with the imminent possibility of a bloody outcome. José Padilha, from Rio de Janeiro, watched the incident on the GloboNews channel and was intrigued.

The producer of the documentary Os Carvoeiros (1999) thought, then, that he could tell another story from the images of the carioca event that had so much impact on him. By researching TV images, newspapers, and various documents, Padilha really unveiled another drama, which preceded and conditioned the actions of that fateful  Dia dos Namorados (Valentine’s Day) of 2000: that of abandoned childhood and the absence of social insertion, a reality of which Sandro do Nascimento was one of the victims.

The director selected from over 70 hours of television material, scenes that could re-tell the hijacking. As this narrative nucleus unwinds, Ônibus  174 unfolds the antecedents and consequences of the fact through interviews with former hostages, policemen who participated in the action and family and social workers linked to Sandro do Nascimento.

José Padilha thus ties the assailant’s life trajectory to the reality of Brazil’s disinherited, illustrating in an almost didactic way the perverse logic of social exclusion that propitiates the birth of the many “Sandros” of Brazil. The film shows images of the hijacker playing in front of the Candelaria Church, the day before the 1993 massacre that took the lives of seven street boys in Rio. A survivor of the slaughter, Sandro tried to straighten up – he even promised his foster mother that he would be famous and appear on TV – but the fate of marginal life would not abandon him.

Winner of Festival Rio BR 2002 for Best Documentary, Ônibus  174 – screened at the World Cinema section of the Sundance Festival in the United States – also exposes the ineffectiveness of the Brazilian prison system and the lack of structure of the Rio de Janeiro police, whose lack of command in the episode only by a miracle didn’t cost more lives. The line number has changed from 174 to 158, but the route still exists – and Ônibus 174 comes as a testament to a tragedy that should not be forgotten and can be repeated at any time, even if one wants to erase the names and existence of its protagonists.

Check out the interview with the filmmaker José Padilha made at the time:

“The big culprit was the state”

How did the idea of filming the bus 174 incident come about?

José Padilha: After seeing the hijacking live, I concluded that the archival material of Brazilian TV was amazing. Then I discovered that Sandro, the bus hijacker, was one of Candelaria’s survivors. Then I realized that his story was socially significant, and I decided to make the film.

You watched the unfolding of the hijacking on TV. What was your reaction to the impactful images transmitted throughout Brazil?

I reacted like most Brazilians: I was amazed at the errors of the police and the fact that such a violent event was broadcast live. I can only say that the solution of Brazilian problems, including violence, depends on a better income distribution and the country’s growth.


The movie Ônibus 174 reveals the little-known side of this tragedy: the true-life story of hijacker Sandro do Nascimento. Do you believe your documentary will change people’s understanding of this episode?

I thought Sandro needed to be explained, and I tried to build that explanation through the movie. I hope that understanding Sandro’s origins will change people’s understanding of the causes of the episode and urban violence in Brazil.

The nationwide live broadcast of the drama unfolding inside the bus influenced both Sandro and police action. How do you rate the action of television in this case?

Television only broadcast it because the police were inefficient in isolating the location. Even so, I think TVs should have considered the violence of the situation before deciding to broadcast it live. After all, due to the schedule, there would always be a risk that children would end up watching extremely violent scenes.

One of the great narrative merits of the documentary is exemplifying in an exemplary way the personal history of Sandro do Nascimento with the collective reality of social exclusion in Brazil. What is needed to stop the perverse logic that keeps producing “Sandros” in Brazil?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I can only say that the solution of Brazilian problems, including violence, depends on a better income distribution and the country’s growth.

Some people directly involved, such as the police commander who led the negotiations with the abductor, didn’t give interviews about Ônibus 174. Did the police refuse to talk?

Documentaries are made with people invited by the filmmaker. I invited Colonel Penteado, but he chose not to participate in the project. So did former governor Anthony Garotinho.

How did you get to the “professional assailant” that appears in the film?

Through Sandro’s acquaintances who live in the  Nova Holanda favela (slum).

You, as a director, refrain from making a definitive judgment on the fact – even though it is clear that you are trying to shed light on the circumstances that turned Sandro into an outcast. What is your personal opinion about the hijacker and the police action in the episode?

I think the film demonstrates that the state was largely responsible for the tragedy. On the one hand, it treated Sandro with extreme violence since he began to live on the streets. The Brazilian state can be partially blamed for the violent actions taken by Sandro on the bus, including the fact that he didn’t surrender. Nor can the state organize a competent police force.

Information courtesy of Gaúcha ZH

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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