Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco was on her way home Wednesday evening when she and her driver were shot and killed on the road.
The 38-year-old left-leaning politician was an outspoken critic of police brutality, according to The Guardian. That evening, she had participated in a discussion about black women changing the status quo.
Her sudden loss means Afro-Brazilians have lost one of their most prominent defenders in the government. The day before she was killed, Franco criticized the police yet again, this time over the murder of Matheus Melo, a young Afro-Brazilian who was killed leaving church. “How many more will have to die for this war to end?” she asked.
Before going into politics, Globo reports that she studied sociology in college, and eventually earned a masters in public administration. Franco worked in a number of organizations aimed at helping people in favelas and eventually became involved with leftist politics.
Although her shooting was first reported as a robbery, the violence of the crime has been elevated to a homicide. A third passenger in the car, Franco’s advisor, was also injured. Globo states that she was shot in the head four times and that the assailants took nothing from the vehicle.
There is no primary suspect in the case yet, but many on social media this morning are suspecting the police force Franco once criticized. Last month, the government enlisted the military to regain control over Rio as a response to increased violence. As news of the shooting spread throughout the city, mourners gathered near the crime scene in shock and grief.
Others are blaming Rio’s high murder rate among Afro-Brazilians as the true culprit. Maurizio Giuliano, the Italian director of the United Nations Information Center for Brazil, told the BBC that he believed that Franco was another unfortunate victim of the region’s gun violence. He called her death “shocking” but said it followed the city’s statistics. In a statement to the public, the president’s office said it would launch a thorough investigation.