Brazilian ex-police officers arrested for murder of Councilwoman Marielle Franco

Ex-police officers arrested in killing of Rio de Janeiro council member Marielle Franco

Ex-police officers arrested in killing of Rio de Janeiro council member Marielle Franco

The suspects were identified as Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer, and Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, a policeman who was expelled from the force. Investigators said they have no reason to think that any of the Bolsonaros are linked to Franco's killing.

Ms Franco was returning from an event encouraging black women's empowerment on 14 March 2018 when a auto drew alongside hers and nine shots rang out.

Simone Sibilio, the lead Rio state prosecutor on the case, said that Lessa and Queiroz were both arrested around 4 their homes. Marielle's killing was a blatant attempt to silence a fearless human rights defender, who had devoted her life to advocating for women, LGBTI people and black youth in Rio favelas.

Authorities said they couldn't yet fully explain the motive for the killings but pointed to signs of intolerance toward the councilwoman's political agenda. "The case is not yet over", said one local prosecutor, who asked for anonymity to comment about a case in which he was not involved. "Marielle defended minorities, black women, LGBT and other minority causes".

Siblio did not rule out that Lessa was ordered to commit the crime by someone else.

Suspects were former members of the military police force.

"I don't like how politicized the case has become. we need to be very cautious", the prosecutor added.

Ex-police officers arrested in killing of Rio de Janeiro council member Marielle Franco

De Queiroz's lawyer, Luiz Carlos Azenha, denied there were any photos of him inside the auto on the day of the assassination. The police previously said they believed three men were in the vehicle at the time of Ms. Franco's murder, but this morning have stated there were only two.

Franco's partner Monica Benicio told AFP the arrests were "a crucial step".

Franco was a vocal critic of Rio police for their often-deadly gang-busting operations in the city's slums, and took stands against paramilitary militias, made up of current and former police, who are de-facto bosses across wide swaths of the city.

Police and politicians in the state of Rio de Janeiro have been under intense pressure to solve the case, which apparently involved sophisticated planning by the assassins, right down to making sure surveillance cameras were shut off on the street where the attack happened.

Witzel, a former judge who was inaugurated January 1, was criticized past year when he participated in a rally with other candidates who had broken a street sign commemorating Franco.

Justice Minister Sergio Moro said on Twitter he hoped the arrests would provide "greater clarity to this bad crime so that those responsible face justice".

"The reality is changing", Witzel said of the police and reforms under way.