BOGOTÃ, Colombia â A government minister overseeing the police apologized for the death of a BogotÃ¡ man in custody and said two police officers had been sacked, as authorities called for calm after two nights of protests and riots that killed at least 13 people.
“The national police ask forgiveness for any violation of the law or disregard of standards on the part of any member of this institution,” Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said on Friday.
A cellphone video of the meeting with the police, which sparked the protests, shows the two police officers on Wednesday immobilizing and repeatedly firing with a stun gun at the man, Javier OrdÃ³Ã±ez.
Mr Trujillo said the two officers would face criminal charges and five other officers have also been suspended, pending investigations.
The unrest left more than 200 civilians injured, including more than 70 by bullets, according to the town hall. Nearly 200 police officers were also injured as rioters clashed with security forces and torched dozens of police stations and city buses.
The authorities in BogotÃ¡ are preparing for further protests. Protesters, along with Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez’s family, called for justice and reforms to the sprawling US-backed police force, which includes anti-narcotics commandos deployed in the countryside and patrol boats in towns.
The unrest began after video of Mr OrdÃ³Ã±ez’s meeting with police went viral on Wednesday. In the video, Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez pleaded for his life, shouting âPlease never again! Members of Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez’s family said he was taken to a police station after being handcuffed. He was then pronounced dead that day in a hospital.
Lawyer for the OrdÃ³Ã±ez family, Vadhir GÃ³mez, told BogotÃ¡ City TV news channel that he had consulted Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez’s medical reports, which showed that he suffered from severe fractures of the bones of the face and organic lesions. Mr. GÃ³mez said the police beat Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez after his arrest.
“Javier OrdÃ³Ã±ez was not only killed, but he was tortured in this police station,” Gomez said during the interview.
The attorney general’s office, which is leading the death investigation, declined to give further details, citing the investigation.
General Gustavo Moreno, deputy head of the national police, apologized to the OrdÃ³Ã±ez family. âWe know that these kinds of situations undermine the confidence Colombians should have in their police. ”
It is still unclear what led to the meeting between Mr OrdÃ³Ã±ez and the police on Wednesday, just after midnight. Eliana GarzÃ³n, who lives near Mr OrdÃ³Ã±ez and is his ex-wife’s sister, said he was drinking beers with friends in his apartment when the group went to a convenience store to buy more. Police arrested him at the store for allegedly violating social distancing guidelines, she said.
Ms. GarzÃ³n, 31, remembered Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez as a loud talker who liked to debate. He also maintained a close relationship with the family of his ex-wife, with whom he was raising two children, she said. He was an engineer but worked as a taxi driver while he was working to finish his law school.
âHe was always ready to help his friends and family. He got up early to take my parents to the hospital, ârecalls Ms. GarzÃ³n as the family prepared for the funeral.
She said she hoped the officers responsible for the death risked jail time. âThis is the only way for us to know that there is some justice in this world,â she said. “He was just a human being and didn’t deserve to die like this.”
The death of Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez threatens to reignite the anti-government street protests that rocked Colombia a year ago. Protests and riots over the past two days have also erupted in major cities outside the capital, from Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast in Cali in the south to the city of MedellÃn in the north, Colombia’s second largest. .
Officials in BogotÃ¡ accuse street agitators as well as police officers of the violence. Mayor Claudia LÃ³pez accused police forces of unauthorized and indiscriminate use of their guns against protesters. “Any illegal action by an official will provoke outrage, it’s natural,” said Hugo Acero, the city’s security secretary.
But Mr Acero said authorities were also investigating whether organized criminal groups, including the left-wing rebel organization National Liberation Army, were using the protests to stir up chaos. âThere is a series of actors mingling with outraged peopleâ¦ in the hope of stealing and looting,â Mr. Acero said.
Dozens of public buses and nearly a third of the city’s 155 police stations have been set on fire or vandalized in the past two days, according to the mayor. At the Villa Luz police station where Mr. OrdÃ³Ã±ez was taken after being handcuffed, around 60 police officers were on guard on Friday. Residents swept away debris, repainted graffiti-covered walls and put up signs calling for justice and an end to violence on all sides.
“They need to reform the police,” Jorge Mendieta, a 49-year-old trader, said as he displayed the signs. “But what I do not tolerate is that they come and destroy the things that we pay with our own taxes.”
– Jenny Carolina Gonzalez contributed to this article.
Write to Kejal Vyas at [email protected]
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