Emergency medical technician Antonio Carlos Maia doesn’t ride shotgun in his ambulance in Rio de Janeiro. He rides assault rifle. The scuffed barrel of his M-16 juts out of the passenger-side window, locked and loaded, reports the Washington Post. A 9mm pistol is holstered under the bottom edge of his bulletproof vest. The ambulance driver and two additional EMTs riding in the back have their own guns, meaning that this military police medical crew in Brazil can — and sometimes does — spray hundreds of rounds at anyone who poses a threat during a rescue run.
For years, violence has been an inextricable part of life in Rio’s slums. Drug gangs, heavily armed militias and the police all fight for territory. The police say they have to take an aggressive stance against the gangs, and the gangs cite a long list of documented police abuse and corruption to justify their will to fight. Ambulance crews sometimes get in the middle of the action. Sometimes paramedics must lie down in the back of the ambulance with the patient because people are shooting at them, said one crew member.