Brazil police: Swimmers covered up act of vandalism

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Rio de Janeiro (CNN) – The report that four American Olympic swimmers were robbed at gunpoint while partying one night in Rio de Janeiro was a lie to cover up an act of vandalism of a gas station that resulted in the athletes being properly detained by security guards, Brazilian police said Thursday.

“The surveillance tapes show that there was no violence against the athletes at the gas station,” said Civil Police chief Fernando Veloso at a press conference on the investigation. “Their claim that they are a victim of an assault or robbery or any kind of violence is not true.”

He added the the athletes — Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz — should “provide apologies to the city of Rio.”

While all of the athletes may have played a role in the vandalism, the principal troublemaker was 32-year-old

Lochte, winner of six Olympic gold medals, who got into an angry, drunken confrontation with security guards,” Veloso said.

Lochte, who has returned to the United States, gave interviews in which he claimed his group was confronted by robbers in police uniforms, one of whom he said put a gun to his head; he has continued to stand by his story of a robbery through statements given by his attorney.

Veloso, however, said one of the two swimmers who have been questioned by police — Bentz and Conger — has confirmed that there was no robbery and no violence against the swimmers and that the trouble arose from their vandalism. He declined to say whether it was Bentz or Conger who was cooperating.

A firearm was pointed at the American swimmers by one of the security guards at a vandalized gas station in order to control one of them, Brazilian police said. It is not being deemed an excessive use of force.

The athletes paid 100 Brazilian reals and a $20 bill to pay for damages to the gas station bathroom the night of the confrontation. Police only heard about the alleged crime and started investigating because it was being talked about on social media, Veloso said.

A cab driver reported hearing the story about the vandalism and the confrontation with security guards from two women fares who were with the athletes at the time of the confrontation, Veloso said.

Veloso stressed that the investigation was continuing and that an attorney representing Feigen was making arrangements to bring him to police for an interview.

While Veloso said potential charges include false communication of a crime and damaging private assets, those charges were unlikely because the athletes had paid for damages that night and the owner of the gas station was not pressing charges.

“This kind of crime will not lead to their arrest,” Veloso said.

Brazil’s Globo media group has released footage that shows Lochte, Feigen, Conger and Bentz at the gas station in Rio’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood early Sunday when the athletes said they were robbed at gunpoint by men in police uniforms.

The footage shows a man in the act of urinating in a side alley at the gas station and being confronted by gas station staff.

Daily newspaper O Globo cited the station’s owner as saying the athletes had thrown stones at the business and torn one of its signs before urinating in the street.

Read more on CNN.com

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