Thursday, October 2, 2014

Homicide charges in Mexico army killing of 22 raise more questionsabout what happen

Homicide charges in Mexico army killing of 22 raise more questions about what happen

Associated Press | October 1, 2014

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Months after the Mexican army said it had killed 22 suspected gang members in a fierce shootout, three soldiers are being charged with homicide.

The announcement late Tuesday was another step in dismantling the official version of the June 30 confrontation, which came under question almost immediately because of the lopsided outcome. Only one soldier was injured.

But Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam's version of events raised more questions about the killings in an abandoned warehouse in southern Mexico. A witness said most of the deaths happened after the suspects had surrendered following an initial firefight in which one person died. The U.N. urged they be investigated as possible summary executions.

Following a brief initial firefight with eight soldiers, three of them opened fire with "no justification whatsoever" after entering a warehouse where the suspects had taken refuge, Murillo Karam said in a news conference. He offered no details on whether the suspects had already surrendered, whether they were unarmed, or how three soldiers could kill 21 people without anyone trying to flee a wide-open, hangar-like building.

"Doesn't it seem strange that eight soldiers face off against 22 suspects and all the deaths are on the side of those with numeric superiority?" said Alejandro Hope, a Mexico City-based security analyst. "What was this, a squad of Rambos? Or had the suspects already been disarmed? Whichever way, this doesn't smell good."

The military initially said that a prolonged confrontation occurred when a patrol unit came under fire in the town of San Pedro Limon, an area in Mexico state known to be dominated by drug cartels. The witness, who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisals, told The Associated Press that the army fired first. She said the 21 had given up and walked out of the warehouse and that soldiers led them back inside and killed them.

Her daughter, 15-year-old Erika Gomez Gonzalez, who had been wounded in the leg in the initial shootout, was turned over and shot several times in the torso, the witness said.

She said Tuesday that all of the soldiers at the scene were involved in the shooting, not just three, though she couldn't remember exactly how many were present.

Though the incident occurred three months ago, she said she still hasn't been interviewed by federal investigators and that Mexico's human rights investigators only contacted her within the last two weeks. The attorney general's office would not say if it had interviewed the witness, and the human rights commission couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

An AP review of the warehouse days after the shooting showed a few stray shots and no sprays of gunfire within the large grain warehouse where the alleged gang was hiding. Instead, bullet holes and blood stains indicated some were shot near or against the walls at close range.

Photographs from the scene leaked to a local news agency showed most of the bodies against the wall, with guns lying near or propped against them to appear as if they went down shooting.