The Military Police of Santa Catarina — a state agency with numerous battalions — were called in and were seeking reinforcements to confront the group, according to local reports.
Cristian Dimitri Andrade, a Military Police commander in Criciúma, told reporters that the attackers were “several men with rifles, long weapons,” and described them as “an organized crime gang, which specializes in bank robbery.” He said two people, including a police officer, had been shot.
“We are receiving information from residents who send us photos and videos,” he told Engeplus, a local news outlet.
The police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Criciúma, with a population of more than 133,000 as of 2010, is in the state of Santa Catarina and is considered the center of Brazil’s ceramic and floor tile industry.
Bank robberies in Brazil, which has among the worst crime and homicide rates in the world, are hardly uncommon. In recent years, gangs have attempted to dig their way to millions through tunnels, have detonated dynamite to rob bank branches and have blown up cash machines in attempts to extract money.
In 2005, thieves rented a house one block from a bank, set up a fake gardening business and spent three months digging a 262-foot tunnel under a bank in the seaside city of Fortaleza. They made off with over $50.8 million, the authorities said.
In 2017, the Brazilian police discovered a tunnel complete with electric lighting and ventilation, thwarting the planned robbery of a São Paulo branch of the government-owned Banco do Brasil. Sixteen suspects were arrested.
Yan Zhuang contributed reporting.