Mexico rights body: Police used excessive force in 6 deaths

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Posted: Nov 25, 2015 7:50 PM
Mexico rights body: Police used excessive force in 6 deaths

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's governmental human rights commission said Wednesday that excessive use of force by federal police resulted in six civilian deaths in a confrontation last January, including a person who was shot dead while lying wounded on the ground and posing no threat.

It recommended that prosecutors open criminal investigations into the deaths.

The federal police have always denied its officers used excess force. But on Wednesday, National Security Commissioner Renato Sales said federal police would cooperate with prosecutors' investigation of the deaths.

The rights commission criticized authorities' handling of the incident on Jan. 6, 2015, in the western state of Michoacan, when federal forces moved in to dislodge members of self-defense groups who had seized the Apatzingan city hall more than two weeks earlier to protest electricity rates and crime.

Federal forces began their advance at dawn to clear the camp, producing confrontations. One person died then.

Later that morning, those who escaped regrouped and called for reinforcements. A number of pickups filled with men pursued a federal police convoy that was taking seized vehicles to an impound yard. Video surveillance showed the men hopping out of the trucks and running toward the back of the convoy, some carrying sticks. Suddenly, they began running back in retreat.

Nine people were killed there, including eight who were riding in two of the chase vehicles, a black SUV and a white pickup truck that were riddled with bullets. The commission's report said that guns seen lying around the white pickup were placed by the federal police, making it impossible to properly analyze the crime scene.

Commission President Luis Gonzalez Perez said that "excessive use of force resulted in the death of five people, and illegal execution of one person by federal police."

Those five were unarmed when they were shot to death, the commission said. One of the dead suffered 27 bullet wounds.

Another person lying on the ground was shot to death execution style by someone, presumably a police officer, who was standing above him, the commission's report said.

"The victim yelled that he was unarmed and put up his hands as a signal of surrender," the report said. "He received the fatal gun wound when he was lying on the ground."

Carlos Vazquez, who was in one of the vehicle following the federal police convoy, told The Associated Press last January that officers fired directly into the white pickup and shot at the black SUV.

Pedro Emilio was also in one of the vehicles following the federal police convoy.

"They stopped, then we did, too, and we got out with the sticks," he told the AP. "Before we could get to them they began to fire from their trucks at us. We hit the ground and got away as best we could."

The commission said none of the dead received timely medical attention.