U.S. Olympic swimmers weren't robbed, fabricated story: Rio offi - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

U.S. Olympic swimmers weren't robbed, fabricated story: Rio official

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(NBC) -

The four American swimmers who have claimed they were victims of an armed robbery in Rio were the ones causing trouble that night and fabricated their account of the incident, the chief of civil police said Thursday.

"Right now, as we speak, what the police can affirm — there was no robbery the way it was reported or claimed by the athletes," said Chief Fernando Veloso, speaking in Portuguese at a press conference Thursday. "They were not victims of the criminal actions that they claimed they were."

Surveillance video plus witness accounts confirmed the swimmers, including 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, damaged a bathroom door at a gas station in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood before they returned to the athletes' village early Sunday, Veloso said.

The athletes had told officials and media outlets, including TODAY, that they had been robbed at gunpoint. But as inconsistencies in their story emerged, speculation rose.

Veloso would not say whether any charges would be filed against the swimmers, but said they could be face charges of false testimony and vandalism.

He said the Americans paid $20 U.S. dollars plus 100 Brazilian reals ($30 U.S.) to local "security guards" for the damage to the gas station.

"We need to understand what each athlete did in order to understand what the crime was, if there was a crime," he added.

It was not clear whether one of the swimmers was involved in an altercation with a security guard at the gas station, as some news outlets reported on Thursday. But Veloso said, "we don't have anything that could say there was any kind of excess" force used.

"Their claim that they were a victim of an assault or a robbery or any kind of violence is not true," he said.

Veloso described Lochte as "very angry" and "intoxicated" after the incident.

The FBI is following the investigation, Veloso said.

Two of the swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were pulled off a plane late Wednesday to be questioned by police over the encounter at the Shell gas station, where the men said they were threatened in an armed robbery.

Their teammate, Jimmy Feigen, has remained in Brazil and is cooperating with authorities, along with Bentz and Conger, said U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky earlier Thursday.

The men were expected to be questioned by authorities again Thursday.

"All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio," Sandusky said.

Lochte, 32, spoke with police before leaving Brazil this week. His lawyer earlier said he gave police a statement as representatives from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Olympic Committee and the FBI observed. Lochte signed the statement to attest to its truthfulness, his attorney added.

Brazilian judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop said Lochte and Feigen gave contradictory accounts of the robbery, according to the court's statement.

The men also said the robbery took place on the way home from a club, which they left at 4 a.m. But security video showed them leaving at a different time, the judge said.

De Cnop added that Lochte told police there was one robber, while Feigen said there were more, one of whom had a gun.

Lochte told TODAY's Matt Lauer in a telephone interview Wednesday night that he returned from Rio earlier that day, and no one told him he should stay in Brazil. Lochte said he told authorities he would remain cooperative.

On the night of the incident, Lochte said, they had stopped at a gas station and then got back in the taxi. The taxi driver did not move, and it was then that two robbers with guns and badges approached the car and ordered the swimmers out of the vehicle and onto the ground, he told Lauer.

Lauer said he asked Lochte about the skepticism that his story may have been concocted as part of a cover up.

"He strongly denied that, said it's absolutely not the case," Lauer said.

The potential charges the American swimmers face, if police believe they gave false or misleading statements to authorities, can carry up to six months in jail.

But under Brazil's constitution ratified in 1988, they have the right to remain silent.

Veloso called on the athletes to apologize to the city of Rio, given their standing on the world stage.

"We are dealing with important people, public people, that might influence other people," he said. 

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