Monday, February 26, 2007

João's a Hero

Six-year-old João Hélio is a hero. His sweet face smiles at you from hundreds of T-shirts, his name is on the lips of Brazilian citizens across the country, his parents talk on TV, and a city plaza now bears his name. But his heroism is not the kind any of us would aspire to. No, João was the victim of car theft in Rio de Janeiro around 9:30 p.m. on February 7th shortly after he, his mother, Rose, and his 13 year-old sister left a spiritist center. They were stopped at a red light when three armed, young men surrounded the car. Rose and her daughter quickly got out of the car and hurried to open the back door to release six-year-old João from his seat belt. The bandits didn’t want to wait that long and took off like a bullet with João dangling from his seat belt on the outside of the car. Pedestrians hollered, but instead of stopping, the driver began zigzagging in an attempt to get rid of João. At first glance an observer thought João was a doll until he saw blood splattered on the vehicle. The car continued zigzagging for four miles until the robbers entered a dead end, abandoned the vehicle, and fled. Little João died of course, the bandits were caught—one is a minor—and now the country is left to deal with this heinous crime. A debate is on in Congress whether the age for convicting minors shouldn’t be lowered. Citizens march in the streets crying out for the government to be harder on punishing criminals. More than one mass has been held. There’s a lot of conjecturing going on, but none of this will bring João Hélio back to his parents.

He’s dead.

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