Three criminals died Monday in a shootout with police when they tried to rob a restaurant here in Brazil's second-largest city, the Rio de Janeiro state Public Safety Office reported.

The incident occurred on Monday morning when six armed people entered a restaurant in Tijuca, a neighborhood in the northern part of the city and subdued about 20 employees of the establishment, which was not serving customers yet.

Police, upon being alerted of a possible robbery attempt with hostages, dispatched a nearby patrol car to the scene.

A man and a woman, who were standing in the door of the restaurant and were hiding their weapons in backpacks died in the first exchange of gunfire when officers approached them, police Lt. Col. Ronald Freitas de Santana said.

Another man who allegedly fired at the officers from inside the restaurant was hit by a bullet in the second exchange of shots and died shortly thereafter at a hospital, according to the police report.

The other three men who were part of the group climbed over a wall at the back of the restaurant and fled with about 10,000 reais ($5,000) they had stolen from the establishment along with the personal belongings of the employees, mainly mobile telephones.

None of the hostages or police officers was injured, De Santana said.

Police seized two revolvers and two pistols. EFE