RIO DE JANEIRO — A large gang of heavily armed bank robbers invaded the Brazilian city of Cameta just one day after a similar force struck another mid-sized city on the opposite side of the country, taking residents hostage as they looted a bank.
Para state’s public security secretariat said in a statement Wednesday that more than 20 criminals with assault rifles attacked a branch of the state-run Bank of Brazil in the city in the Amazon region overnight.
Officials did not immediately say how much money might have been stolen.
Video on social media showed a line of roughly a dozen hostages being led away from a square in Cameta, a city of 140,000 people, and shots ringing out in the night. Local media reported that a military police station was attacked, preventing officers from responding.
“They drove around shooting at the police and at the houses. It was a horrible scene to see,” said Junior Gaia, who lives nearby, in an interview with television network Globo News. “We were all laid out on the floor, afraid they would invade the homes.”
The coordinated attack came a day after a similar overnight robbery of a Bank of Brazil branch in Brazil's southern region. In the city of Criciuma, dozens of gunmen armed with assault rifles seized the city and took hostages as they used explosives to rob a bank.
In that 11:50 p.m. Monday attack, robbers fled and dumped 10 getaway cars in a cornfield in the nearby city of Nova Veneza, police told Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
At least two suspects were wounded, based on blood stains in those abandoned cars, authorities told Brazilian press.
In the escape, robbers allegedly dropped a pair of suitcases filled with 810,000 reais ($155,000) and four men, between 24 and 28, were arrested for picking up and leaving with those valuable bags, authorities told O Globo.
Police found another 300,000 reais ($57,300) scattered in the streets of Criciuma.
As in Cameta, they took actions to impede police response and fired shots into the air, apparently to scare people and keep them at home.
The robberies took place at the start of December, when bank coffers are filled in anticipation of employees withdrawing their year-end bonuses, according to Cássio Thyone, a council member of the non-profit Brazilian Forum on Public Safety.
“It doesn't happen without planning,” Thyone told the Associated Press by phone. “It's another demonstration that everything is planned. They think of the location, and the timing.”
Bank of Brazil didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Cameta, tactical forces, as well as police from other areas, were dispatched to reinforce the police. Authorities located the criminals’ abandoned truck and found explosive devices within it, according to the security secretariat.
Two people were shot, including one hostage, a young man, who was killed. The other has been hospitalized with a leg wound.
Cameta Mayor Waldoli Valente offered his condolences for the victim on Facebook.
“Our city was always peaceful and I ask that everyone stay at home,” he posted about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.