SÃO PAULO — Members of the world surfing community paid tribute on Wednesday to popular Brazilian surfer Ricardo dos Santos, who died of gunshot wounds a day earlier.
Dos Santos, 24, was shot three times on Monday by an off-duty military police officer outside his house in Palhoça, near Florianópolis in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.
Despite four operations, he died of his injuries on Tuesday afternoon.
Conflicting reports have surfaced about the cause of the altercation between the surfer, the officer and another man, reportedly the officer’s brother.
One version is that dos Santos asked the two men to leave the area around his house because they were using drugs.
But the officer claims he acted in self-defence and requested a drug test, local reports said. Police will also investigate witness claims that another shot was fired at dos Santos as he attempted to escape.
The military police officer in question, named as 25-year-old Luís Paulo Brentano, could face a charge of culpable homicide. The officer has been charged with criminal offences in the past, but was cleared of all of them, the G1 news portal reported.
Surfing communities in Brazil and around the world have been paying tribute to dos Santos, who came to prominence after knocking 11-time world champion Kelly Slater out of a major surfing event in 2012 in Tahiti.
Surfer magazine said the community was “in mourning”, and wrote: “Dos Santos was a fearless, world-class tuberider, who captured the surf world’s attention with an incredible performance at the 2012 Billabong Pro … for which he took home the Andy Irons Forever Inspiration Award.”
Slater, writing on his Instagram profile, said dos Santos was “truly one of the great barrel riders of his short time”:
“This was truly a senseless loss of life. Our small community has lost another way too soon,” he wrote.
Friend and champion of the 2014 ASP World Tour, fellow Brazilian Gabriel Medina, also took to Instagram. “Ricardinho, you didn’t deserve this! Never!” and describing dos Santos as someone who helped others and wore an “ear-to-ear smile every day.”
Frederico Leite, president of the Federation of Surf in Santa Catarina, Fecasurf, who knew dos Santos from the age of 9 and accompanied his rise into professional surfing, spoke to the Anadolu Agency (AA) shortly after attending Wednesday’s funeral service.
“We’ve lost an athlete, a friend and a son who was always smiling and always had time to teach the youngsters how to surf. He was their idol — cut down in his prime. Today the city stopped to pay their respects,” Leite said.
“He was everyone’s friend, an exemplary character, very well liked and respected.”
Commentators and members of the surfing community have used dos Santos’s death to highlight the issue of gun crime and police killings in Brazil.
According to figures from the World Health Organization and United Nations, Brazil saw 64,357 homicides in 2012 the highest number of murders of any country.