August 15, 2005

Brazil suspects in U.S. man’s death on drugs-police

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Three suspects arrested in
connection with the killing of a U.S. anthropology professor
during a robbery were high on cocaine when one of them shot
him, police said on Monday.

University of Vermont professor James Petersen, 51, was
shot once in the chest on Saturday at a restaurant in the
Amazon rainforest town of Iranduba, about 14 miles west of
Amazonas state capital Manaus, police said.

Initial media reports quoted witnesses as saying Petersen
was shot after a struggle with the robbers in the town located
around 1,200 miles northwest of the capital Brasilia.

But police said Petersen did not resist and died as the
suspects were fleeing from the restaurant.

"He (the professor) didn't show any reaction, the
individuals were drugged," said Iranduba police superintendent
Normando da Rocha Barbosa.

An 18-year-old man has confessed to firing the shot that
killed Petersen. A 16-year-old and another man have been
arrested in connection with the robbery, Barbosa said.

Petersen was on a trip to study ancient Indian tribes in
the Amazon when the suspects entered the restaurant where he
was eating with colleagues.

"It's an incalculable loss. He had a huge knowledge of the
archeology of the American continent," said Eduardo Neves, of
Brazil's University of Sao Paulo, who was with him at the time
of the murder.

Police said Petersen's body was likely to be sent back to
the United States on Wednesday. He was the second American to
be murdered in Brazil's Amazon this year.

U.S. nun and human rights activist Dorothy Stang was shot
to death by hired gunmen in February as she defended poor
farmers and the rainforest from illegal loggers and ranchers.

Police said they saw no connection between Petersen's death
and his work in the area.