José Roberto Ornelas de Lemos

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Four masked men shot Ornelas de Lemos at least 41 times while he was at a bakery in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, according to news reports.

Ornelas de Lemos, the administrative director of Jornal Hora H, was involved in all aspects of the daily’s operations, a newspaper employee told CPJ. He was also the son of Jornal Hora H‘s owner, José Lemos. A journalist at Jornal Hora H told authorities that Ornelas de Lemos had received threats for the daily’s reporting, according to news reports, but did not elaborate.

Police Captain Marcus Henrique Alves told reporters that authorities were investigating the daily’s coverage as a possible motive for the murder. “It was a combative newspaper, that frequently denounced irregularities and corruption,” he said. The daily was known for its tabloid-style coverage of crime and the police.

On November 4, 2015 civil police in Nova Iguaçu arrested six people accused of running a militia, Fabio Cardoso, the officer in charge of the investigation, told CPJ. Three of them are accused of being directly involved in Ornelas de Lemos’s murder, Cardoso said. They have denied any involvement, according to reports.

Cardoso told CPJ the militia wanted to stop the paper from writing about militia-related violence in the area. “He was writing about it and that was a problem for the militia who wanted to take power there,” Cardoso said via telephone, “so they decided to kill him.”

News accounts at the time of the murder reported that Ornelas de Lemos had been investigated for three murders committed in the 1990s but had never been formally charged. He had once been accused of being involved in the murder of a local official in 2003 in a dispute over a trash collection contract and was imprisoned, but was later acquitted, the reports said. Authorities said at the time of his death he was carrying a firearm and had survived a previous attack in 2005, according to news reports.