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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 00:29 GMT 01:29 UK
Brazilian drug kingpin shot dead
By Steve Kingstone
BBC correspondent in Sao Paulo

Jose Carlos dos Reis Encina escorted by soldiers in 1989
Encinas (right) achieved notoriety in the 1980s
One of Brazil's leading drug lords has been killed in Rio de Janeiro.

Jose Carlos dos Reis Encina, 48, was shot on Thursday, as he drove from prison to an office where he was working on day release.

He came to prominence in the 1980s through drug dealing and a series of outlandish jail breaks.

In 1985 he was being held at a maximum security jail on an island when a helicopter landed in the yard to pick him up.

Encina built up a drugs empire centred on one of Rio's hillside favelas or shanty towns.

He was a founder of what became known as the Red Command, the city's most notorious criminal faction.


Encina was captured and sentenced to 50 years in prison but his escapes earned him the nickname of "Step Ladder".

On one occasion he dressed as a guard and coolly walked out the front gates of a prison.

His death on Thursday appears to have been a contract killing and probably drug-related.

Encina and a colleague were driving to work when they were shot dead by two men on motorbikes carrying automatic weapons.

Despite his crimes he is being mourned in the favela which he ruled.

At the height of his notoriety he distributed food there and paid for new schools - an example younger drug dealers have followed.

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