It’s been one year since Rio de Janeiro Councilwoman Marielle Franco was murdered.
Now, Brazilian authorities have arrested two former police officers for allegedly being behind the killing, sparking a new viral hashtag around her death: #WhoOrderedMariellesMurder.
“It is a decisive step, but the case has not been solved,” tweeted Rio Congressman Marcelo Freixo. “It is essential to know who killed Marielle and why.”
After speaking to a group of women about Black empowerment on March 14, 2018, the Councilwoman and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were gunned down after the two former officers allegedly drove up beside the vehicle, which also carried Franco’s press secretary, and opened fire.
Investigators are accusing Ronnie Lessam, a retired military police officer, as the gunman. Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, the man accused of driving Lessam’s getaway car, is also a former police officer and was expelled from the force.
“Two police officers were arrested for direct and effective participation in the crime,” Rio’s State Police Secretary Marcus Vinicius Braga said Tuesday. “With these arrests, we get close to solving the crime.”
Franco, the only Black woman on the Brazilian city’s 51-member governing council, and who was also openly lesbian, never shied away from condemning police-run militias and brutality in the poor neighborhood she represented. Sadly, she was silenced for standing up and speaking out about police oppression in that community and in a country with several cities deemed the most violent in the world.
While Agatha Reis, the widow of Franco’s driver, Gomes, said the weight is “starting to lift” off her shoulders, there are still so many unanswered questions in the case.
“I cannot be completely at peace,” she told local media. “They still have to tell us who ordered these killings. It doesn’t end here.”
Following her death, Councilwoman Franco garnered worldwide recognition for fighting against police corruption that includes an army of guns for hire, which was the result of an onslaught of armed paramilitary groups made up of current and former police officers that emerged in Rio in the early 2000s. The hashtag #WhoKilledMarielle went viral on social media, pushing Brazilian authorities to solve the case.
Franco supporters have reported her as a target because she was a Black woman in government for a country with a predominantly white elite. Although others in government have condemned police oppression and brutality, it’s been reported that the killers didn’t think they’d be brought to justice because Marielle was a Black woman.
The prosecutor’s office said in its report that it is undisputed that Franco was killed “because of the political causes that she defended.”
(Photo by Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)