The robbery story told by Team U.S.A. swimmer Ryan Lochte and teammates James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz is getting weirder and weirder.
After the swimmers claimed they were robbed at gunpoint on Sunday, authorities could find little evidence to support the claim.
Like a chain reaction, a judge ordered a search and seizure warrant and Conger and Bentz were removed from their plane home prior to departure from Brazil on Wednesday.
At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Rio’s police chief said the story was a fabrication — even though the group was held at gunpoint.
WTF is up with #LochteGate? Here’s what we know so far:
1. Lochte changed his story
Lochte told NBC of the night in question that “We got pulled over in the taxi, and these guys came out with a police badge — no lights, no nothing, just a police badge — and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused. I was like, ‘We didn’t do anything wrong,’ so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up. I was like, ‘Whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet. He left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
But, speaking to the network’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday, Lochte switched up his story while sticking to the robbery claim.
“They had gone to the bathroom in a gas station,” Lauer recalled. “They got back to the taxi, and when they told the taxi driver to go, he didn’t move. They said, ‘Let’s go’ again, ‘we’ve got to get out of here,’ and again the taxi driver didn’t move. And that’s when he says two men approached the car with guns and badges.”
2. Police grew suspicious with little evidence
According to the Associated Press, police said the swimmers could provided information in early interviews, so authorities found scant evidence to support their claims.
The swimmers said they had been intoxicated and couldn’t remember the type and color of the taxi, or where and when the events occurred.
3. Two swimmers were removed from their flight home
Brazilian police pulled Conger and Bentz off of their flight home before takeoff on Wednesday night, following mounting questions about the athletes’ account of the alleged robbery.
Lochte returned to America two days prior. The fourth swimmer, Feigen, is thought to still be in Brazil.
4. Search and seizure warrants were issued
A Brazilian judge ordered search and seizure warrants for Lochte and Feigen on Wednesday in order to investigate their accounts of the alleged robbery.
Video footage captured all four teammates laughing and smiling as they returned to the Olympic Village shortly after they said they were robbed. The judge also ordered the confiscation of the swimmers’ passports.
“You can see the supposed victims arriving without signs of being physically or psychologically shaken, even joking amongst themselves,” Judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop said in a statement, the New York Times reported.
5. Rio police chief says the swimmers lied …
“There was no … physical or verbal violence that could lead to them thinking they were victims of a robbery,” Fernando Veloso, Rio’s top cop, said. “There was no robbery as was reported or claimed by the athletes.”
While he said police have not concluded their investigation, he also said it is “improbable that an average person would consider that a robbery situation.”
6. … But they still had a gun pulled on them
Rio’s chief of civil police went on to explain that witness statements suggest the four athletes vandalized the gas station bathroom and were prevented from fleeing the scene by an armed security guard.
Veloso said the athletes were not robbed, but handed over a $20 bill and 100 reais (about $50 total) to pay for the damages. He added that one of the three swimmers who remained in Rio corroborated this version of the events, but declined to identify which.
7. The swimmers can still be charged
In theory, the four athletes may still be in trouble for false communication of a crime and for damaging private property, Veloso said. Veloso said police are still looking “to answer what action each athlete actually did” before any charges are filed.
Because the three athletes who remain in the city are cooperating with the investigation, they will likely be allowed to leave the country, but Veloso added that the swimmers “would be very noble” to apologize to the city of Rio for mischaracterizing the events as a robbery.