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Mistreatment and Military Shooting Civilians: Video Shows Apparent Extrajudicial Execution in Nuevo Laredo


Highlights: Footage shows the military pulling civilians out of a pickup truck in Nuevo Laredo. The soldiers disarm them, kick them and then place them next to a wall. Minutes later, in a somewhat strange moment, the military seems to take refuge from something and, meanwhile, shoot at civilians. All die on the spot except one, who later dies in the hospital. Video also shows that soldiers altered the crime scene. They placed weapons next to the corpses and one had handcuffs removed when he was already dead.

The footage also shows that soldiers altered the crime scene. They placed weapons next to the corpses and one had handcuffs removed when he was already dead.

Security camera video shows a new case of ill-treatment of five civilians in Nuevo Laredo, in addition to their apparent murder, at the hands of the military. The footage, collected on May 18, shows the military pulling civilians out of a pickup truck. Some of the civilians carry weapons. The soldiers disarm them, kick them and then place them next to a wall. Minutes later, in a somewhat strange moment, the military seems to take refuge from something and, meanwhile, shoot at civilians. All die on the spot except one, who later dies in the hospital.

The images, to which EL PAÍS has had access, show how the soldiers, with the five already dead, also alter the place of the events. One of the elements grabs long weapons with a red bag to avoid touching them with his hands and leaving footprints, and places them next to the corpses. Later, another realizes that one of the bodies still bears the handcuffs, which they themselves have put on it before. He asks another partner for the key and they take it away. In between, paramedics have gone to the scene to take away one of the five, who would later die in hospital. The Prosecutor's Office would not arrive there until after hours.

The officer in charge of the military convoy, Infantry Lieutenant José Luis N, signs the account of what happened before the Attorney General's Office, in charge of the investigations. In the report, of which this newspaper has a copy, the lieutenant points out that he and his men were disarming the civilians, when their companions attacked them with bullets, "in an attempt to rescue their personnel." According to the officer, the military answered. Meanwhile, detained civilians were trying to retrieve their weapons, according to this account. After the bullets, the military realized that four of the five were dead and one more in "critical condition", product of the crossfire.

The lieutenant's version contrasts with the video, because in the images there is no other civilian truck near where they are, nor anyone other than military shooting. You can see how the soldiers try to take refuge, but it is not possible to appreciate if shots come to them. Be that as it may, the video shows how at least three soldiers shoot at the five unarmed civilians, next to the wall. Between the soldiers' shots, one of the five moves, snakes, as if he wants to flee. He looks injured, blindfolded. Seconds later, he stops moving. EL PAÍS has contacted a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense (Sedena) to find out if the agency has taken any action on what happened. The response has been: "I have no information about it. I place the event as such, but I have no further information. I'd have to check."

The military approaching the truck of the armed civilians.

The episode is reminiscent of the one that occurred in February in the Cavazos Lerma neighborhood, also in Nuevo Laredo. Then, soldiers killed five unarmed boys and left another badly wounded. They all came from spending the night in a disco. A seventh young man, who was unharmed, later said that the soldiers had attacked them with bullets for no reason, when they were returning home. This boy also said that the soldiers shot one of his colleagues, badly wounded, when he got out of the car in which they were all going, and when the uniformed had the situation under control.

The February case achieved great notoriety in the press, because in several videos relatives of the boys appeared, confronting the military who guarded the scene of the events. Some soldiers fired into the air or to the ground. Civilians managed to knock down some soldiers and kicked them on the ground. The images of that day illustrate the consequences of the covert war that the northeastern border has been going through for years. The military's alleged trigger-happy – if it wasn't worse – had had fatal consequences.

When the case reached the ears of the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president regretted what happened, although he avoided pointing out any war and channeled his story in the logic of isolated events. Trying to distance himself from the two previous governments, which registered dozens of cases of extrajudicial executions, torture and forced disappearances, perpetrated by sailors and military, López Obrador usually points to the punctual error, the theory of bad apples.

The video, step by step

The sequence of the May 18 case includes the final part of a chase that began after 14:30 p.m., between Lago Chapala Street and Monterrey Avenue, in the south of the border city. The video begins when a dark half-cab van crosses Monterrey Avenue at full speed and crashes into a wall, just below the security camera of a shopping center. It's 14.36 p.m. After the crash, soldiers appear walking, pointing at the truck. A military vehicle, known in the middle as Sand Cat, a kind of tankette for urban use, supports them.

The Sand Cat hits the passenger door and the back door, thus preventing anyone from leaving there. Meanwhile, other soldiers take the crew member and his companions out on the pilot's side. Some wear bulletproof vests and carry long weapons. The military takes them away. Some soldiers fire, apparently at the ground. From the shock, the men seem half-disoriented. The military subdues them and several kick them. In his report, Lieutenant José Luis N states that "one of them had an exposed wound to the head, due to the vehicle crash."

Then the confusing episode begins. The Sand Cat leaves the site where the wall is heading north. At least eight soldiers are left with the detainees. They are close to them, they kick them from time to time. It's 14.45 p.m. Suddenly, everyone gathers around the civilian van, some on the side of the passenger door and others on the passenger door. You can see shots hitting the ground, about 15 meters from them, but it is not clear if they are from their own weapons or others. Most pass to the side of the co-pilot, except one, who remains on the pilot's side, a few meters from where the civilians have been. In the footage, he is seen shooting at the detainees several times. From the other side of the truck, two other soldiers fire their long guns at them.

That's when one of the five civilians tries to flee, crawling. His face is covered with a bandage. Several of the soldiers shoot him and he stops moving. The rest do not move, the four lie inert next to the wall. Minutes later, the Army's Sand Cat appears again, a few hundred meters away, on Monterrey Avenue. No other vehicles are seen nearby. It's 14.48pm and everything happened in just 12 minutes.

Five minutes later, one of the soldiers separates from the shelter they have found between the nose of the truck, the front doors, and the wall. It goes to the back, the one facing the avenue. Take a rag or red bag from the ground. He stops for a few seconds because four or five cars pass by on the avenue. The military gestures to them to leave. When no one passes by, he grabs a rifle with the bag. He walks and places it next to the body of one of the dead civilians. Then he repeats the operation: he returns to the truck, takes another rifle and leaves it next to the body of another of the dead.

In the next few minutes everyone seems calm. They are sitting or leaning between the van and the wall. One of the soldiers appears injured, lying on the right front tire of the truck. His companions seem to comfort him. In his report, Lieutenant José Luis N explains that he is a sergeant, in charge of the machine gun of the vehicle, supposedly of the Sand Cat. According to him, the sergeant "was injured by shrapnel in the face, the result of impacts that hit the cartridge chest of the machine gun."


At 15.01 the Sand Cat approaches the crash site, accompanied by at least three military vehicles. It is placed next to the bushes and there it stays. Five minutes later, one of the soldiers next to the civilian van takes a package from the back seat and gives it to a colleague, who has a cigarette in his mouth. He grabs him and leaves the scene. Then, a group of five soldiers, confident by the presence of the military trucks, approached the bodies. Specifically two, it seems that they touch them with their feet. Supposedly, one of them is still alive. Seconds later they walk away. At 15:14 p.m., one of those two men, in white, is seen moving his arms.

Dying, no one approaches him. He moves his arms, his feet, while the military looks at him from a distance. They seem to realize that they have made a mistake. The comrade who has previously placed weapons on the bodies has left one near the wounded. But the civilian seems to have no strength for almost anything. At 15:17 p.m. six soldiers approach him, one carrying a black backpack, another pointing at him, just in case he grabs the rifle. But it doesn't. It's unclear what's next. In his report, Lieutenant José Luis N says that a military doctor gave first aid to the wounded man and that, in the meantime, an ambulance was called. The officer says the medical vehicle arrived at 15:45 p.m.

The military follows the manual. By then, they have already surrounded the scene with yellow tape. The ambulance arrives and four paramedics take the injured civilian away on a stretcher. They put him in the vehicle and leave. In the report, the lieutenant says that "when continuing with the inspection of the place, two vehicles abandoned by organized crime were found on the same avenue, heading north." They are two armored trucks. Inside they find long guns and a .50 caliber rifle, capable of piercing armor.

Paramedics arrive at the scene.

Later they find another truck, already on Arandillo Street. In that one they find nothing, but they do find bullet holes. The lieutenant says those vans were the ones trying to rescue the five detained civilians. The officer says that at that moment, after 16:00 p.m., they call the FGR office in Nuevo Laredo to report the matter. While they wait, the military tries to clean up any marks of irregularity. At 16.28 p.m., one of them realizes that one of the four dead civilians left by the wall is wearing handcuffs. He asks for the keys and takes them away. Another military man watches. After a while, experts and prosecutors from the FGR arrive on the scene.

The case was sounded in Nuevo Laredo, not because of the possible executions, but because of the number of alerts it generated on social networks. Clashes surrounding the alleged killings rocked the south of the city. In videos shared on social networks, neighbors of the place are seen lying on the ground, protecting themselves from the bullets. The mayor, Carmen Canturosas, asked the population through Facebook not to leave home or work. As often happens in such cases, the alarms of that day met with silence later. Neither the FGR nor Sedena said a word about what happened or the status of the investigations. Asked about it on Tuesday, the Prosecutor's Office has not answered.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-06-06

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