American teen killed in Mexico in latest instance of police violence

06/25/20 (written by JHale)- In a widely circulated video online, a coffin emblazoned with a glossy image of Our Lady of Guadalupe lies adjacent to a makeshift soccer goal. A young man passes a ball so that it ricochets off the coffin and into the bottom right corner. Immediately, a group of individuals dressed in white swarms the coffin, jumping up and down and celebrating. Inside the coffin lies the body of Alexander Martínez Gómez, a 16 year old soccer player who dreamt of becoming a star before he was killed in Mexico’s most recent incident of police violence (Miranda, “Despide Multitud a Alexander”).

A troubling incident

An American citizen born in North Carolina, Gómez was visiting family in Oaxaca at the time of the shooting (“Mexico Police Officer Investigated”). Gómez split his time between the two countries, but hoped to move to Mexico permanently to become a professional soccer player. This dream would come to an end on the night of June 9th, when he was killed by police. The incident occurred as Gómez and a friend were riding motorbikes to a local store when, according to official reports, a police car with its lights off stopped ahead of the duo and blocked the road. An officer exited the vehicle and opened fire without warning. Alexander was killed, while his companion lost control of his motorbike and was injured (Miranda, “Dan Prisión Preventiva”).

The incident prompted a swift reaction from multiple parties. Gómez’s mother released a video to social media denouncing the police and asserting that her son had been denied first aid after the shooting. The town of Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa, where Gómez was killed, issued a statement expressing that the officer’s actions were not in bad faith (Agren). Nonetheless, the Attorney General of the State of Oaxaca (Fiscalía General del Estado de Oaxaca, FGEO) secured a judge’s approval to preemptively detain Alexander’s accused killer. Furthermore, prosecutors told reporters that the accused officer would be charged to the full extent of the law (Miranda, “Dan Prisión Preventiva”).

An uncertain road forward

As outraged locals demanded justice, officials hurried to provide solutions. The Secretary of Public Safety of Oaxaca (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca, SSPO) promised changes, including greater accountability and increased training of police. Many local residents and members of Gómez’s family have rejected the police entirely, calling for the protection of Mexico’s National Guard. The SSPO expressed understanding, even going so far as to suggest that a National Guard base would be installed in the local municipal center (Rangel). It is still unclear whether the National Guard has a plan in place to prevent the same abuses of power that have plagued local police forces. 

Mexico’s police force has come under increased scrutiny after recent instances of violence against unarmed citizens. The killing of Alexander Gómez follows the death of construction worker Giovanni López in police custody after being detained for not wearing a facemask (“Giovanni López: ‘Justicia Para Giovanni’”). Both incidents have sparked protests, riots, and challenging conversations surrounding the role of police in enforcing justice in Mexico. It remains to be seen whether outrage over police brutality will lead to concrete changes in law enforcement practices.

Sources

gren, David. “Mexico: US Teenager Shot Dead by Police in Oaxaca.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/10/mexico-teenager-oaxaca-police-shot-dead.

Miranda, Fernando. “Dan Prisión Preventiva a Policía Que Presuntamente Asesinó a Alexander.” El Universal, 13 June 2020, 10:24, www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/dan-prision-preventiva-policia-que-presuntamente-asesino-alexander.

Miranda, Fernando. “¡Queremos Justicia! Despide Multitud a Alexander, De Blanco y Con Globos Azules.” El Universal, 12 June 2020, 12:08, www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/alexander-se-despidio-de-la-cancha-con-un-ultimo-gol-su-familia-clama-justicia.

Associated Press. “Mexico Police Officer Investigated for Alleged Murder of Boy.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 June 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/protest-over-mexico-police-killing-of-mexican-american-teen/2020/06/12/faeb494c-ad17-11ea-a43b-be9f6494a87d_story.html.

Rangel, Alejandro. “Familia De Alexander Rechaza Las Policías De Acatlán; Piden a La Guardia Nacional.”

Https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/Estados/Familia-De-Alexander-Rechaza-Policias-De-Acatlan-Piden-La-Guardia-Nacional, 12 June 2020, 20:29, www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/familia-de-alexander-rechaza-policias-de-acatlan-piden-la-guardia-nacional.

Redacción. “Giovanni López: ‘Justicia Para Giovanni’, El Caso De Brutalidad Policial Que Conmociona a México.” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 5 June 2020, www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-52935685.

El Universal. “Vinculan a Proceso a Policía De Acatlán Por Asesinato De Alexander.” El Siglo, El Siglo De Torreón, 18 June 2020, www.elsiglodetorreon.com.mx/noticia/1713183.vinculan-a-proceso-a-policia-de-acatlan-por-asesinato-de-alexander.html.

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