Skepticism of Rio police account of Lochte incident growing

USA Today has extensively investigated the incident during the Rio Olympics where four American swimmers originally claimed they were robbed at gunpoint.  The account given by gold medal winner Ryan Lochte was dismissed by the Rio police, who say the athletes vandalized a bathroom and wouldn't pay for damages.

It's true that Lochte initally embellished the story of what happened.  But the second version he told to Matt Lauer on Sunday jibes with the account given by other swimmers as well as eyewitnesses and video not previously released, according to USA Today.

The best that can be determined is that the swimmers were confronted by "security guards" who were, in fact, off-duty Rio police.  After urinating in back of the gas station, Lochte pulled an advertising sign off the wall, which precipitated the guards confronting the swimmers with guns drawn.

In a statement released Friday, Bentz confirmed police accounts that indicated Lochte damaged a sign during the incident and got into a “heated exchange” with the guards. But Bentz, who said authorities viewed him as a witness and never a suspect in the case, offered a narrative that closely matches Lochte’s revised account that he gave to Lauer three days after the incident. Bentz said his recollection was that money was demanded from the Americans by armed men in order for the swimmers to be allowed to leave.

While bystander Deluz and the police said the amount paid was for property vandalized, it is unclear whether the swimmers understood the situation.

The money that was demanded of the athletes far exceeded any reasonable damages that occurred:

“I gave them what I had in my wallet, which was a $20 bill, and Jimmy gave them 100reais, which is about $50 in total. They lowered the guns, and I used hand gestures to ask if it was OK to leave, and they said yes,” he said in his statement.

In the NBC interview that aired Saturday, Lochte said, “It’s how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us just paying for the damages. Like, we don’t know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.’’

The Rio police made it seem as if the swimmers had trashed the restroom.  Video that focused on the restroom door shows that the athletes never went near the bathroom.

How to characterize the incident?

João Batista Damasceno, a Rio judge, does not discard the possibility that the guards' actions could be rightly interpreted as a robbery.

The rush to judgment by most of the world, portraying the incident as another example of the Ugly American disrespecting a third-world country, appears now to be off base.  While not entirely blameless, the swimmers certainly don't deserve much of the over-the-top criticism from the usual anti-American sources. 

USA Today has extensively investigated the incident during the Rio Olympics where four American swimmers originally claimed they were robbed at gunpoint.  The account given by gold medal winner Ryan Lochte was dismissed by the Rio police, who say the athletes vandalized a bathroom and wouldn't pay for damages.

It's true that Lochte initally embellished the story of what happened.  But the second version he told to Matt Lauer on Sunday jibes with the account given by other swimmers as well as eyewitnesses and video not previously released, according to USA Today.

The best that can be determined is that the swimmers were confronted by "security guards" who were, in fact, off-duty Rio police.  After urinating in back of the gas station, Lochte pulled an advertising sign off the wall, which precipitated the guards confronting the swimmers with guns drawn.

In a statement released Friday, Bentz confirmed police accounts that indicated Lochte damaged a sign during the incident and got into a “heated exchange” with the guards. But Bentz, who said authorities viewed him as a witness and never a suspect in the case, offered a narrative that closely matches Lochte’s revised account that he gave to Lauer three days after the incident. Bentz said his recollection was that money was demanded from the Americans by armed men in order for the swimmers to be allowed to leave.

While bystander Deluz and the police said the amount paid was for property vandalized, it is unclear whether the swimmers understood the situation.

The money that was demanded of the athletes far exceeded any reasonable damages that occurred:

“I gave them what I had in my wallet, which was a $20 bill, and Jimmy gave them 100reais, which is about $50 in total. They lowered the guns, and I used hand gestures to ask if it was OK to leave, and they said yes,” he said in his statement.

In the NBC interview that aired Saturday, Lochte said, “It’s how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us just paying for the damages. Like, we don’t know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.’’

The Rio police made it seem as if the swimmers had trashed the restroom.  Video that focused on the restroom door shows that the athletes never went near the bathroom.

How to characterize the incident?

João Batista Damasceno, a Rio judge, does not discard the possibility that the guards' actions could be rightly interpreted as a robbery.

The rush to judgment by most of the world, portraying the incident as another example of the Ugly American disrespecting a third-world country, appears now to be off base.  While not entirely blameless, the swimmers certainly don't deserve much of the over-the-top criticism from the usual anti-American sources.