MEXICO CITY -- Relatives, friends and neighbors of a 16-year-old Mexican-American boy shot dead by local police in southern Mexico demonstrated Friday to demand justice in the case.
Alexander Martínez Gómez, who had spent years of his short life on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, was shot in the head by a police officer Tuesday night in an incident still under investigation. Born in North Carolina, he had been living with his mother in Acatlan de Perez Figueroa, a town in southern Oaxaca state.
“We came in a caravan from town, with the support of all the people, who told us to keep going,” said Teodoro Martínez, the boy's father. “We are not going to give them much time to get to the bottom of this.”
The father left North Carolina to attend his son's funeral, but he has no visa and may not be able to return, he fears.
Relatives met with Oaxaca state Public Safety Secretary Raúl Ernesto Salcedo. The state government has promised the killing will not go unpunished.
The town government of Acatlan de Perez Figueroa said in a statement that a police officer was involved in the shooting, but that it hadn’t been “in bad faith.” The officer was in custody.
The dead teen and another youth who was wounded were in a group of about nine young people when the shooting happened.
Reached by phone Thursday, a local police officer who would identify himself only as the “commander” said that the teens on motorcycles failed to stop at a checkpoint.
Oaxaca state prosecutor Ruben Vasconcelos said Thursday that “the police talk about it being an accident ... but we don’t believe that.” He said he expected the officer in custody to be taken before a judge on murder charges.
Vasconcelos said investigators were also looking into whether police tampered with the shooting scene.
Some other officers in the department were already under investigation over allegations of excessive use of force and even extrajudicial killings related to a shootout in mid-May in which six alleged criminals died. After that incident, more state and federal forces were sent to secure the area.
The town is in an area with high levels of street crime and organized crime activity. On Thursday, the Oaxaca state security agency said in a statement that it had sent state police officers to the town and that the army was sending soldiers to run checkpoints and ensure public safety.
Various criminal groups are present in the area near Oaxaca’s border with Veracruz state, including the Jalisco New Generation cartel. The National Guard, army and state security forces have had operations in the area.