“It was horrific,” the mayor of Araçatuba, Dilador Borges, said in a televised interview early Monday, noting that the police held their fire once they realized the robbers had tied passers-by to their cars. “The police didn’t come closer because they saw the hostages. The tragedy could have been far worse.”
Capt. Alexandre Guedes, a military police official, said the assailants planted several explosive devices around the city in an apparent effort to imperil a police response. The gunmen also used drones to monitor the police response in real time, investigators said.
As of 10 a.m. on Monday, authorities said at least 10 of the suspected gunmen were in custody. The three dead people included one suspected assailant and two residents, according to the police.
One resident had his legs amputated after he was struck by one of the devices, police said. Capt. Guedes said investigators were trying to determine whether all hostages have been released and whether any gunmen remain in Araçatuba.
“We’re trying to save lives and to defuse these explosives,” he said in a televised interview.
Brazilian news outlets published photos of bank branches in the city that lay in ruins. But there was no estimate of how much the gunmen managed to steal.