Mexican Police Kill US Teenager in Oaxaca

A woman touches the coffin of Alexander Martinez during his funeral in Acatlan de Perez Figueroa, Mexico, on Thursday. Hundreds of residents of this town in southern Mexico bid farewell amid anger and tears for the 16-year-old Mexican-American boy shot dead by local police. (AP photo / Felix Marquez)

MEXICO CITY (CN) — A Mexican police officer in Oaxaca was presented in court on murder charges Friday after shooting a 16-year-old U.S. citizen in the head, killing him.

Alejandro Martinez Gomez was visiting his grandparents in the community of Acatlán de Perez Figueroa, near the border with the state of Veracruz, the Mexican daily newspaper El Universal reported. He was carrying a North Carolina driver’s license.

Initial reports say the boy was walking with a cousin Tuesday night when the police gave chase and fired from the police car, killing Alejandro and critically injuring his cousin. 

Oaxaca state prosecutor Ruben Vasconcelos has opened an investigation of the police shooting, and an officer is in custody.

Casting doubt on claims by police that the teens on motorcycles failed to stop at a checkpoint, Vasconcelos said investigators are also probing whether police tampered with the crime scene.

“The police talk about it being an accident … but we don’t believe that,” Vasconcelos said, according to the Associated Press .

Social media showed the boy’s mother denouncing the police for killing her son and demanding that the U.S. Embassy intervene. 

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement Thursday that it was aware of reports of the death of a U.S. citizen in the town. “We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation and stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the Embassy said.

Virginia Gómez has said police did not provide any assistance after shooting her son, but let him bleed to death in the street. 

“I want my son and here he is, dead, with a shot to the head,” Gómez told Imagen Television, standing over her son’s body Tuesday night.

The police department called the shooting an honest mistake that was not done in “bad faith.” They said they mistook the boy for a “delinquent” who they thought was armed. 

Mexican police departments have a well-earned reputation for violence and criminal corruption. The late U.S. journalist and author Charles Bowden, an expert on Mexican crime, reported that virtually every graduate of a Mexican police academy is corrupted by the country’s powerful drug cartels. The practice is known as “plata o plomo” — silver or lead: Either take the cartel’s money and do its bidding, or take a bullet.

According to El Universal, the Oaxaca office of human right has reported 120 cases of mistreatment by police authorities so far this year, including two deaths in police custody. The Jalisco New Generation cartel is one of several criminal groups in the Oaxaca-Veracruz border.

Though 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, there was no sign of soldiers Thursday as Martínez’s family and friends held a memorial service.

Martínez’s father flew in from North Carolina for the gathering, which drew hundreds of mourners. In one emotional moment, the teen’s casket was taken to the local soccer field and placed in the penalty area.

The crowd shouted “justice,” as one of Martínez’s friends passed the ball so that it bounced off the casket and into the goal, giving Martínez a chance to score for the last time.

Governor Alejandro Murat is said to have spoken to Alexander’s mother and promised there would not be impunity. 

Some Oaxaca officers are already under investigation over allegations of excessive use of force and an extrajudicial killings stemming from a May shootout in which six alleged criminals died.

Alexander Martinez’s family and friends mourn during his funeral in Acatlan de Perez Figueroa, Mexico, on Thursday. (AP photo/Felix Marquez)

Associated Press writers FÉLIX MÁRQUEZ and MARÍA VERZA contributed to this report from Acatlan de Perez Figeuroa and from Mexico City.

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