RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (AUGUST 14, 2016) (POLICE HANDOUT) – Brazilian police released security video on Thursday (August 18) which they said showed a group of U.S. Olympic swimmers vandalising a gas station in Rio de Janeiro.
Police began investigating the incident after the four swimmers, including gold medallists Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen, said they been robbed by gunmen impersonating police officers in the early hours of Sunday (August 14), as they returned in a taxi to the Athletes Village from a party in the city.
The security-camera images appeared to show the swimmers in a dispute with staff at a Rio gas station, a fact they did not mention to police in their accounts.
Staff at the Shell station said the U.S. swimmers ripped an advertising plaque off a wall while they urinated. Security was called and an argument ensued, said one employee who declined to give his name because police had told him not speak out.
Security guards then prevent the swimmers from leaving in a taxi and the Americans appear to offer them money from their wallets.
The Shell service station is close to the Olympic Park where sporting action has been overshadowed over the past two weeks by a string of muggings and robberies, including incidents involving other athletes and two visiting government ministers.
Rio’s police chief denounced the story on Thursday.
Fernando Veloso, Rio’s police chief, said police investigations had shown that the swimmers had broken a mirror and a soap-holder in the bathroom, adding that they then handed over a total of 100 reais ($31) and $20 in U.S. currency as compensation.
After days of standing by the swimmers’ robbery story, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) confirmed police accusations.
Lochte returned to the United States on Monday (August 15). Fellow swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger flew home on Thursday after being interviewed at a Rio police station. As they walked from the building, a waiting crowd shouted “liars” and “fakes”. The pair had tried to leave Brazil on Wednesday (August 17) but were pulled off their flight.
Feigen revised his police statement on Thursday in the hope of securing the release of his passport, the USOC said.
ABC News reported early on Friday (August 19) that Feigen had agreed to pay $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to avoid prosecution in the case, citing his attorney Breno Melaragno Costa.
The outlet said the dispute would be settled, his passport returned, and Feigen would be allowed to leave the country once payment was made to the Reaction Institute charity.