A retired and ailing 71-year-old ironmonger from Quilmes became the central figure of a national controversy last week, when he was the protagonist of the latest episode of vigilante justice last weekend.
The only clear fact in this episode was that Franco Martín Moreyra, 26, was found shot dead with two bullets lodged in his thorax about half a block away from the Quilmes home of the pensioner Jorge Adolfo Ríos. Though the exact details are crucial for resolving the culpability of Moreyra’s homicide, the circumstances of the incident remain confusing.
Moreyra is allegedly a member of a gang which on the eve of last weekend had broken into the home of Ríos, a widower living alone. The assailants robbed him, allegedly torturing him in the process, according to reports in local outlets.
The conclusion from the location of Moreyra’s body suggested that immediately after the robbery, Ríos had seized his pistol and given chase to his five assailants, gunning one of them down. On that basis he was charged with “aggravated homicide” and committed to house arrest (to be served at the home of his son, not his own, which is being put up for sale) since both his age and his health placed him in a coronavirus risk group.
However, the pensioner’s defence lawyers contend that Moreyra was shot inside the home and managed to stagger away a short distance before expiring, thus presenting his homicide as legitimate self-defence.
Regardless of whether those accepting this interpretation were a majority of public opinion or not, they were certainly the most vocal. Two of the most strident voices came from opposite ends of the political spectrum – Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni, who describes himself as “a soldier of [Vice-President] Cristina Fernández de Kirchner” and former national Security minister Patricia Bullrich, now chairing ex-president Mauricio Macri’s PRO centre-right party.
Both of them not only defended the right of Ríos to defend himself but criticised the courts for paroling at least one of the gang three months ago during the coronavirus epidemic.
“I’m with the victims,” proclaimed Bullrich, saying that the courts should be on the side of Ríos instead of accusing him of homicide, while Berni said that he would like to be the pensioner’s lawyer, also repeating his earlier criticisms of releasing hundreds of convicts last autumn to reduce the pandemic risks from overcrowded prisons.
At press time one of the robbers, all reportedly hooligans linked to the barra brava of Quilmes football club, had been arrested.
The incident comes hot on the heels of a similar incident in Mar del Plata, in which a criminal was shot dead by a homeowner. Ubaldo Néstor Génova, 81, has been charged with "illegal possession of a firearm," after shooting 27-year-old Lucas Nahuel Jerez (who had a long criminal record) as he attempted to break in.
On Thursday, there were reports that another thief had died in the City neighbourhood of Flores, after suffering a heart attack during a fight with a store-owner he was attempting to rob. Police said shots were fired during the incident, which took place at a footwear store and left the store-owner injured and the perpetrator, said to be around 65 years old, dead.