About 30 would-be robbers armed with machine guns terrorized a small Brazilian city overnight Sunday to Monday, injuring two police officers and a bystander in a brazen but ultimately failed assault on an armored cash van, authorities said.
The attackers fled empty-handed after an intense exchange of gunfire with police in the southern town of Guarapuava, and a manhunt complete with tracking dogs and helicopters was underway Monday.
Video of the assault posted on social media showed residents of Guarapuava cowering amid a deafening hail of gunfire, while other recordings appeared to show the attackers using hostages as human shields in their getaway attempt.
Two police officers were wounded: one shot in the face and the other in a leg, officials said. Neither was critical.
A resident of the town was also hurt, but no details were provided.
Police said the would-be robbers set vehicles on fire at several strategic points around the city of 183,000 people, including at the police station, in a bid to slow the security response to their attack.
But in the end, "they failed to access the safes (in the cash van) to steal the money," said Romulo Soares, the security secretary for Parana state.
Nathan Santos, 16, said he was exiting a shopping center when the shooting started.
"A lady let us hide in her home. We heard a lot of gunfire, people shouting in the streets," he told a Brazilian news site.
"They were shooting at the street lights so that the streets would be dark."
Officials said the attackers, most of them armed with machine guns, used about eight or ten vehicles, some armored.
Police found explosives and bulletproof vests in cars abandoned by the would-be robbers.
Brazil has seen a number of similar robberies in recent years by heavily armed gangs targeting smaller communities in carefully planned operations.
In December 2020, gunmen burst into a bank in Criciuma, detonated explosives to blast open its safe and then threw bills in the air before fleeing.
Bystanders who raced to collect the money got in the way of pursuing police.
In October, 25 alleged members of a gang of Brazilian bank robbers were killed in a vast police operation in Minas Gerais state by police who uncovered a trove of weapons and stolen vehicles.
And last August, a gang spread terror in the city of Aracatuba, in Sao Paulo state, strapping hostages to their getaway cars as human shields in a bank robbery involving drones and explosives.
Two civilians and one bank robber died in that assault, which also left several people injured.