Police: Ryan Lochte made up robbery story; video shows swimmers at gas station
Brazilian police have confirmed Lochte made up his story as their investigation begins
Brazilian police held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to make their message clear. Although the investigation is still ongoing, as far as authorities are concerned, Ryan Lochte and three other American swimmers fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint by men posing as police officers early Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro.
"They were not victims of the criminal actions they claim they were," Fernando Veloso, chief of police, said Thursday through a translator. "The police can [confirm] that."
A closed-circuit gas station video of Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen has been obtained by authorities in Brazil and is still under analysis. The video purportedly shows one of the four men in question breaking a door down at the gas station before a fight develops between one of the swimmers and a security guard.
Veloso also said at the press conference that "deliberately, one or all of them, started to vandalize the bathroom side of the gas station, damaging some mirrors or things they had inside of that bathroom" and that one of the swimmers, who he could not identify, confirmed this sequence of events when interviewed earlier on Thursday.
A legally owned gun was drawn on the swimmers, Veloso confirmed, and it was used as means to take control of the situation because, according to Veloso, Lochte was "probably drunk." Police also stated that the security guard told them Lochte was "disturbed" and "kind of angry," so a gun was drawn to contain him.
Police work in this case has been "very, very difficult due to the lack of information" they were working with from the outset, Veloso said.
The video from the gas station also shows the swimmers going back to their taxi to "try and get away," and that's when security guards asked the taxi driver to not leave and wait for police to arrive. To cover some of the damage, the swimmers handed over a $20 American bill and one hundred dollars in Brazilian currency before eventually leaving the scene -- before police arrived. The incident was complicated by the fact that the security guards in question did not speak English, while the American swimmers did not understand Portuguese.
What criminal activity happened, or potential charges that could come to Lochte and the other three swimmers, is still to be determined. Police still have to interview witnesses, including Feigen, who is still in the process of begin negotiation to meet with Brazilian police. The FBI is also following the investigation, per Veloso.
"In theory, one or all of them could be charged for false communication of a crime," Veloso said. "I'm not saying they are charged right now. ... I think it would be noble of them to provide their apologies to the city of Rio."
This story initially broke on Monday and made international headlines.
"They were very contradictory ... from the beginning," Veloso said of the stories relayed by the swimmers to the police.
The account Lochte initially gave -- and then largely stood by when he spoke to NBC by phone on Wednesday night -- was that he and his teammates were mugged at gunpoint by at least one man posing as a police officer. Lochte also initially said that man put a gun to his forehead and cocked the trigger. When speaking with Matt Lauer on Wednesday night, Lauer said Lochte softened that part of the incident.
Veloso said there was no kind of violence -- physical or verbal -- that happened and could reasonably lead the swimmers to think they were being victims of a robbery.
"There was not such a thing," Veloso said, as relayed by an interpreter on CNN. "Their claim they were being a victim of an assault, robbery or violence, it's not true."
With the investigation still ongoing, some information from the case is still being withheld by the police.
Lochte was ordered to remain in Brazil on Wednesday, only for authorities to discover he'd already hopped on a flight back to the United States. On Wednesday night, Bentz and Conger were sitting on their plane, on the tarmac, as Brazilian authorities took them off their U.S.-bound plane for further questioning.
Until last night, Feigen was still missing. But he is now with authorities and wants to return home, according to USA Today.
Jeff Ostrow, Lochte's attorney, told ESPN on Thursday that he has yet to hear from Brazilian law enforcement officials and that they "know how to get in touch with me. And we would cooperate."
Lochte could be extradited to Brazil, but that will be up to American and Brazilian authorities. The other three swimmers are indefinitely being held in Rio until the case and subsequent interviews bring about more clarity on an incident that has undeniably overtaken and overshadowed the events of the second week of the Olympics.
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