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Three in 3 Weeks: Outrage Grows over US Police Killing of Mexicans

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Mar 12, 2015, 3:05 pm

EspañolThe police shooting of three Mexican migrants in February has provoked a wave of denunciations from human-rights organizations and the Latino community in the United States over the alleged use of excessive force by US agents.

The latest victim was Ernesto Javier Canepa Díaz, 28, who police shot dead in Santa Ana, California, on February 28. The police were seeking a car thief and shot at Canepa, reportedly believing him to match the description of the suspect.

The killing joins those of Rubén García, who police shot in Texas on February 20, and Antonio Zambrano, a homeless resident of Pasco, Washington, who local police shot 17 times on February 10.

For the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE), which condemned the killings on Monday in a statement, the three incidents “were not isolated.” The SRE called on the US Department of Justice, through its Civil Rights Division, to investigate the cases closely.


“The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and the Mexican Senate evaluate consular assistance activities.”

“To our consternation over the third case of a Mexican killed by the use of excessive force in under a month, is added our deep concern over the damage to trust between the Hispanic community and police forces,” the statement read.

The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto added that it would use all available resources to “look after the interests of the victims’ families.”

Alejandra García Williams, Mexican consul in Sacramento, California, similarly joined the calls for clarity over the killing of Canepa Díaz. “We insist on a clear, transparent, and fast investigation, and that they tell us exactly what led the officers’ actions.”

Jorge Mario Cabrera, communications director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) argued that “every time something like this happens, the way in which the police department implements its protocols is brought into question.”

“When these things happen, we have to ask ourselves whether it’s because the personnel aren’t trained, whether the leadership in this area needs a change in training, or if the culture of the organization itself is still unhealthy,” the activist told the EFE news agency.

Los Angeles community activist Luis Vazquez Ajmac told the agency that the growing Hispanic community in the United States was experiencing increasing levels of discrimination. “Nowadays, there are more Latinos and Asians, and we’re already part of the reality and the infrastructure,” he said.

However, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas defended the force from accusations of discrimination. “We don’t tolerate any type of discrimination [or] racial bias by any of our personnel,” he told press.

“If we were to find that out in the course of our investigation, then we would take disciplinary action against the officer,” he added.

Two Other Cases

Ruben Garcia Villalpando was the previous Mexican citizen who police killed in Grapevine, Texas, on February 20.

On February 10, police officers in Washington State shot Antonio Zambrano Montes 17 times for allegedly throwing rocks at the officers. Montes had lived in the United States for the last 35 years.

“The Mexican government condemns recent events like that which took the life of Mr. Zambrano Montes and now that of Mr. García Villalpando, which are further proof of how disproportionate use of force leads to unnecessary loss of life,” read a Mexican government statement.

Four police agents have been suspended while investigations are ongoing in all the cases, it emerged on March 6.

According to data compiled by Univision TV, 74 Mexicans died at the hands of US border police and local police officers between 2006 and February 2015.

Diana López, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States from Michoacán at the end of the 1970s, told the PanAm Post that the incidents were “discouraging,” but the public outcry could be the beginning of change.

“The fact that these cases are receiving media attention means that we as a country are beginning to be concerned about them,” she said.

She also added her voice to those calling on the Department of Justice to revise police department policy across the country.

“I wonder what they would find, were they to fully investigate how officers treat immigrants,” López concluded.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.