Video of deaths of 4 protesters in Colombia present how police seem to have crossed a deadly line

Editor’s notice: The movies on this story comprise graphic content material.

Joan Nicolás García Guerrero was mourning the fallen from Colombia’s worst bout of civil unrest in years.

Then, the candlelight vigil that the 26-year-old artist and father was attending within the metropolis of Cali descended into chaos — a scene captured, like a lot of the Colombian violence, by newbie video.

García Guerrero, a front-line protester, had expressed a willingness to present his life for the trigger. “Mom,” he had written in a textual content to his household on April 28, the day the demonstrations erupted. “We have now to have a civil conflict, it’s painfully unhappy, however true.”

Now, simply after midnight on Might 3, he was approaching police strains behind a cloud of acrid tear gasoline. In video obtained and analyzed by The Washington Put up, a single shot is fired from what seems to be Colombian safety forces.

A heartbeat later, García Guerrero falls onerous.

Historic protests have been held in a whole lot of cities and cities in Colombia. Almost 1 million individuals have taken to the streets over the previous month. Dozens of deaths, together with these of a police officer and 14 civilians whose killings Human Rights Watch investigators have linked to extreme police drive, are placing the nation’s militarized safety forces below a world microscope.

[Violence in Colombia protests escalates amid allegations of police excess]

A Put up examination of video footage involving 4 of the deaths reveals how Colombian police seem to have crossed a deadly line.

The avalanche of movies underscores the facility of viral photographs to carry officers to account. Colombian authorities, below mounting worldwide stress, have detained and indicted law enforcement officials in three of the 4 instances The Put up examined.

Authorities have been most lively in instances during which movies have been the clearest and most generally shared. No arrests have been made in García Guerrero’s dying, nor in a number of others during which protesters or bystanders have been killed.

The deaths of García Guerrero, Marcelo Agredo Inchima, Santiago Andrés Murillo Meneses and Brayan Fernando Niño Araque have been captured on video. Some have turn out to be flash factors, sparking outrage towards police violence amid the already rising demonstrations for financial justice. Three of the deaths concerned dwell hearth — a stage of drive Colombian police are permitted to make use of solely when confronting an “imminent menace of dying or critical damage, or to forestall a very critical crime that includes a critical menace to life.”

A Put up evaluation of the footage, together with some that has not beforehand circulated publicly, illustrates the extent to which police seem to have overstepped their guidelines of engagement. Colombian authorities officers have blamed not less than a number of the violence on guerrillas and criminals that they are saying have infiltrated the ranks of the protesters.

“I feel that [the] mixture of movies, media consideration and Washington response is explosive for the federal government,” mentioned José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The influence within the U.S. of the George Floyd case, and the idea of Black Lives Matter, can also be a component that creates the circumstances for zero tolerance of police abuse.”

Colombian police say they’ve sought to ensure the best to “peaceable protest” whereas additionally containing violence and property harm attributable to a few of these concerned within the unrest. They are saying 119 inside police investigations have been opened because the begin of the protests, together with 9 associated to homicides.

“To make use of drive, all Colombian law enforcement officials should observe 4 ideas: necessity, legality, proportionality and rationality,” police mentioned in a press release in response to questions from The Put up.

They added: “One thing that we’ve got to rethink as a society is using violence inside respectable eventualities of public protest.”

April 28: The beginning of the protests

Protests erupted April 28 in response to a tax proposal by the federal government of President Iván Duque. The unpopular invoice was meant to plug fiscal deficits after a 12 months during which the coronavirus pandemic slammed the economic system and sapped authorities sources. Demonstrators, a few of whom had taken to the streets in 2019 to protest inequality and corruption, seen the measure as a step too far. The invoice, they argued, would hit working-class Colombians already stung by rising poverty and joblessness whereas largely shielding Duque’s rich supporters.

[Protests have spread across Colombia. Here’s why.]

On the primary day of the protests within the Mariano Ramos neighborhood of Cali, a metropolis that may turn out to be the epicenter of the demonstrations, a resident on a balcony started to movie police forces standing throughout the road.

The situation the place Marcelo Agredo Inchima was killed in Cali, Colombia.
Marcelo Agredo Inchima was killed amid protests in Colombia on April 28.
Marcelo Agredo Inchima was killed amid protests in Colombia on April 28.

LEFT: The situation the place Marcelo Agredo Inchima was killed in Cali, Colombia. (The Washington Put up) RIGHT: Marcelo Agredo Inchima was killed amid protests in Colombia on April 28. (Courtesy of Agredo household)

In video obtained by The Put up, the officers — identifiable by their yellow helmets — watch as demonstrators march throughout an intersection a block away. Two officers near the protesters, one brandishing what seems to be a baton, stroll away. About 30 seconds into the video, because the officers attain their bikes, a bunch of protesters breaks from the group and runs towards the officers, throwing rocks and projectiles.

A second clip filmed moments later reveals Marcelo Agredo Inchima, 17, sporting a hat, blue denims, and a black and pink jersey, on the entrance of the group.

Round 12 seconds into the video, Agredo and some others dash towards a lone officer trying to trip away on a motorbike. Different officers might be seen standing farther again. An officer within the intersection raises what seems to be a gun and fires towards the protesters. Agredo lunges towards the officer on the motorbike and kicks him within the again.

Agredo turns to run. The officer on the motorbike pulls a weapon from his hip and fires a number of rounds on the fleeing teenager. An evaluation of the video for The Put up by Steven Beck, proprietor of Beck Audio Forensics, discovered that officers fired seven photographs.

“It’s positively dwell ammunition, based mostly on the sound profile and the timing of the photographs,” mentioned Brian Castner, a weapons analyst for Amnesty Worldwide’s Disaster Staff who reviewed the recording for The Put up.

A surveillance video from a store down the road reveals the second Agredo kicks the officer and flees. He runs away for 3 seconds, seemingly unhurt. Then his hat flies off and he falls to the bottom. In syncing the safety footage with the witness video, it seems as if Agredo was hit within the head with the seventh shot.

A graphic video recorded moments after the taking pictures reveals Agredo mendacity immobile on the pavement with blood overlaying his head. Passersby attempt to get him assist; no law enforcement officials are seen. There may be yelling and screaming: “The police simply killed this younger man!”

“Earlier than he kicked the police officer, they have been already taking pictures,” mentioned Armando Agredo Inchima, Agredo’s brother. “My brother simply kicked him. It doesn’t justify this policeman taking his life.”

Within the assertion to The Put up, Colombian police mentioned that neither their specialised riot police, often called the ESMAD, nor their common forces particularly engaged in protest management are permitted to hold firearms.

However different police forces which have responded to the demonstrations are allowed to hold such weapons, and not less than a few of their members seem to have used dwell hearth. Of the 4 officers arrested, three have been in instances during which the victims have been shot. The police mentioned that three of the 4 officers being investigated in reference to two of the deaths have been from a unit that was formally permitted to hold firearms. A fourth police officer being investigated belongs to the ESMAD. “On this explicit case, the kind of weapon that may have triggered the sufferer’s dying has not but been judicially established,” the assertion mentioned.

The Colombian Nationwide Police report on to the Ministry of Protection, an uncommon construction that predates the nation’s decades-long wars towards leftist guerrillas. Police have been accused in recent times of deploying extreme drive throughout operations in rural areas. Human rights activists accuse them of utilizing heavy-handed techniques to regulate anti-government protests in 2019 and in demonstrations final 12 months after a taxi driver died of wounds sustained in police custody.

Within the assertion to The Put up, police mentioned they deployed officers to the realm of Agredo’s killing in response to “public dysfunction.”

“The circumstances surrounding the dying of younger Marcelo Agredo are the topic of an investigation by the Legal professional Normal’s Workplace, who charged a patrol officer of the establishment on Might 13 with the crime of aggravated murder,” they mentioned.

Might 1: Tensions escalate

After April 28, protests grew in Colombia’s largest cities and unfold to smaller cities. Human Rights Watch says the motion gained momentum after Agredo’s dying in Cali and the preliminary stories of police abuse.

Santiago Murillo, 19, was strolling residence from his girlfriend’s home within the western metropolis of Ibagué, a few five-hour drive from Cali, on the night of Might 1. That night time, his mom mentioned, the aspiring artist was on foot solely as a result of his cellphone was lifeless and he couldn’t name his father to ask for a trip.

The route Santiago Murillo took home and the location where he was wounded in Ibague, Colombia.
The route Santiago Murillo took residence and the placement the place he was wounded in Ibague, Colombia.
Santiago Andrés Murillo Meneses, 19, died amid protests in Colombia on May 1.
Santiago Andrés Murillo Meneses, 19, died amid protests in Colombia on Might 1.

LEFT: The route Santiago Murillo took residence and the placement the place he was wounded in Ibague, Colombia. (The Washington Put up) RIGHT: Santiago Andrés Murillo Meneses, 19, died amid protests in Colombia on Might 1. (Courtesy of Sandra Milena Meneses Mogollón)

Two blocks from Murillo’s home, a video reveals, protesters threw unidentifiable objects towards a location outdoors the video body. Bikes might be heard revving; a big crowd of demonstrators begins working.

Twenty seconds into the video, the group seems to scatter simply earlier than 4 gunshots are fired. About 10 photographs are heard in a span of about 15 seconds, based on an evaluation by Castner. The supply of the gunfire just isn’t seen within the video.

A few minute later, the road clears and a big armored car with the phrase “Policía” on its aspect drives by way of. An ambulance siren is heard and police identifiable by yellow jackets on bikes seem.

A second video clip, filmed later, reveals Murillo on the bottom. Eleven seconds into the video, a voice off-camera might be heard saying, “Lo mataron” — “They killed him.” A chaotic scene unfolds as individuals collect round Murillo and attempt to get him assist. Police are seen within the space however obtainable movies don’t present them looking for to get Murillo medical consideration.

“I used to be on my couch watching tv when my phone rang and it was my sister and my nephew,” mentioned Murillo’s mom, Sandra Milena Meneses Mogollón. “They advised me urgently that Santiago was on the hospital. I went to the hospital and there they gave me the information.” Murillo died that night. Authorities advised The Put up that dwell ammunition was the reason for dying.

A publish on Murillo’s Fb web page from April 30, the day earlier than he was shot, signifies that he supported the motion behind the protests however that he thought the demonstrations must be nonviolent. His mom described him as a homebody, somebody who was at all times along with his household.

“He at all times needed to assist others,” she mentioned. “He had a variety of goals.”

A Might 11 information launch from the prosecutor’s workplace says that Murillo was shot by officers of the Nationwide Police. In a press release to The Put up, the Nationwide Police mentioned two officers have been arrested within the case.

About the identical time, 3½ hours away in Madrid, Colombia, protests turned violent. Video and witness accounts obtained by Human Rights Watch point out that peaceable protesters blocked a highway in a roundabout. In keeping with the rights group, some demonstrators threw rocks at a police station a number of blocks away and others vandalized a toll sales space lower than a mile away.

The location where Brayan Fernando Niño Araque was wounded in Madrid, Colombia.
The situation the place Brayan Fernando Niño Araque was wounded in Madrid, Colombia.
Brayan Fernando Niño Araque, 24, died amid protests in Colombia on May 1.
Brayan Fernando Niño Araque, 24, died amid protests in Colombia on Might 1.

LEFT: The situation the place Brayan Fernando Niño Araque was wounded in Madrid, Colombia. (The Washington Put up) RIGHT: Brayan Fernando Niño Araque, 24, died amid protests in Colombia on Might 1. (Courtesy of a household buddy)

Video verified by Human Rights Watch reveals an armored car with the phrase “Policía” on its aspect driving towards a bunch of protesters as they flee. 13 seconds into the video, police shoot what look like tear gasoline canisters.

Protester Brayan Niño was wounded in his proper eye and later died. In keeping with Human Rights Watch, Niño was 24, a father and a furnishings retailer worker who advised his mom and sister the morning of Might 1 that he was going to the protest to “battle for his rights and lift his voice.”

Graphic video reveals a bunch carrying Niño, his proper eye bloodied and his physique limp. In a press release to The Put up, authorities mentioned the reason for dying was a “sharp weapon.”

Two witnesses advised Human Rights Watch that they noticed an armored car arrive on the roundabout round 9 p.m. and begin to shoot tear gasoline cartridges immediately at protesters. One witness mentioned he noticed Niño flip round as he was working away and get hit by a tear gasoline cartridge shot from the armored car.

ESMAD, the specialised unit throughout the Colombian Nationwide Police deployed to regulate riots, makes use of such armored autos. A authorities authority accustomed to the case confirmed to Human Rights Watch that ESMAD seems to have been answerable for firing the tear gasoline that struck Niño. In keeping with analysts in Colombia, ESMAD just isn’t approved to make use of deadly drive.

Prosecutors are investigating; one officer has been arrested.

In a press release to The Put up, Colombian police mentioned a blockade within the neighborhood had violated “basic rights equivalent to meals safety and the free motion of the inhabitants of this space.”

“Confronted with this example,” police mentioned, “ESMAD intervened, utilizing gradual and proportional nonlethal components to revive safety.”

Might 3: A lethal day in Cali

Joan Nicolás García Guerrero had attended each demonstration in Cali because the protests started on April 28, his mom mentioned. In texts she shared with The Put up, her son spoke about his fears for his nation and his youthful sister’s future in it.

“He was protesting as a result of he needed a rustic the place we might all dwell in peace,” Laura Guerrero mentioned.

Text messages from Guerrero to his mother on April 28.
Textual content messages from Guerrero to his mom on April 28. (Courtesy of Laura Guerrero)

Video from the early hours of Might 3 obtained by The Put up reveals a small group of protesters gathering on a freeway affected by particles and fallen lampposts after a candlelight vigil for these killed within the earlier days’ demonstrations.

Twenty seconds into the video, within the upper-right nook of the body, a bunch of males together with García Guerrero might be seen strolling towards a wall of tear gasoline. A few seconds later, a single shot might be heard. García Guerrero falls. Others carry him away.

Beck reviewed the recording for The Put up.

“The sound has the entire traits of a gunshot, together with a loud and sharp preliminary blast sound instantly adopted by reverberation,” he mentioned. “The first spectral peak is round 800 Hz, which is in keeping with a small firearm. There are additionally a number of loud echoes following the blast sound, indicating the presence of enormous reflecting objects. These are all widespread traits of recorded gunshots.”

A graphic video live-streamed to Instagram reveals protesters carrying García Guerrero’s limp and bloodied physique to a gasoline station up the highway. No law enforcement officials are seen attempting to assist him on this video.

Hector Lenis, a buddy of García Guerrero who was current that night time, mentioned García Guerrero didn’t have any protecting tools. Lenis advised The Put up that he didn’t see the taking pictures however heard the sound of a dwell bullet and a person subsequent to García Guerrero yelling, “Injured, don’t shoot!”

The intersection where Joan Nicolás Garcia Guerrero was wounded in Cali, Colombia.
The intersection the place Joan Nicolás Garcia Guerrero was wounded in Cali, Colombia.
Joan Nicolás García Guerrero died amid protests in Colombia on May 3. He is seen here with his mother, Laura Guerrero.
Joan Nicolás García Guerrero died amid protests in Colombia on Might 3. He’s seen right here along with his mom, Laura Guerrero.

LEFT: The intersection the place Joan Nicolás Garcia Guerrero was wounded in Cali, Colombia. (The Washington Put up) RIGHT: Joan Nicolás García Guerrero died amid protests in Colombia on Might 3. He’s seen right here along with his mom, Laura Guerrero. (Courtesy of Laura Guerrero)

Guerrero’s mom mentioned that her son had joined the protesters that night time to assist medics are likely to the injured, and that members of ESMAD attacked the group and deployed tear gasoline, prompting protesters to reply.

“My son joined the entrance strains,” she mentioned. “He was overcome by his frustrations and anger. He preferred his nation and he didn’t need to be subjugated by anybody. He made the choice to go to the entrance and so they killed him. They killed him.”

Cali Mayor Jorge Iván Ospina confirmed García Guerrero’s dying to Colombian media. “Nicolás Guerrero is the son of my cousin,” he advised Blu Radio. “He’s a boy from Floralia, he is an effective boy. He left at daybreak and had a gunshot wound to the pinnacle.”

In a press release to The Put up, Colombian police mentioned: “For now, what is understood is that within the location of the murder, moments earlier than there was looting of a business institution. Within the movies capturing the occasions within the space, there have been fires, individuals with hoods on, riots and a scene of unrest, the place, certainly, you possibly can respect using much less deadly weapons.”

In a press release to The Put up, authorities mentioned dwell ammunition was the reason for dying.

Hours after the dying, a whole lot of protesters returned to the placement. There was one other candlelit vigil, this time for García Guerrero. It additionally turned violent. In keeping with Human Rights Watch, 5 extra individuals died in Cali that night time. Their connection to the protests remains to be being investigated.

In a joint assertion on Monday, Colombian prosecutors and the human rights ombudsman’s places of work mentioned 42 deaths had occurred because the starting of the demonstrations, 15 of them immediately associated to protests. Each places of work mentioned 134 individuals have been lacking.

Dalton Bennett, Ana Vanessa Herrero and Brian Monroe contributed to this report.

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