At least three police officers have been charged with the “doubly aggravated homicide” for their role in the death of 17-year-old Barracas Central footballer Lucas González last month.
City police officers Gabriel Alejandro Issasi, Juan José Nieva and Fabián Andrés López were all remanded in custody and ordered to pay 1.8 million pesos each by Judge Martín del Viso, who issued his ruling on Monday.
Should the trio be found guilty, they could face life imprisonment. It is not known who fired the fatal shot that killed González.
In his ruling, Judge Del Viso said the defendants’ responsibilities as serving police officers weighed heavily on his decision to charge them with “doubly aggravated homicide” – one degree lower than the indictment requested by prosecutors.
The judge also charged the trio with “misrepresentation of the facts, illegal deprivation of liberty and attempted murder” for their actions in relation to the three surviving victims, Niven Huanca Garnica, Julián Salas and Joaquín Zuñiga Gómez.
González, a 17-year-old who played in Barracas’ youth team, died on November 18 after he was shot in the head at close range by serving police officers.
The youngster and a group of his friends were driving a Volkswagen Suran car on their way back home from football training before the incident took place.
The officers have denied wrongdoing and argued that they made a “mistake” in assuming that González was travelling in a car while committing a crime. Judge Del Viso rejected that version of events, as well as additional claims that the officers had come under attack from the victims.
"The aforementioned police officers opened fire on them, firing shots in the direction of the vehicle, causing the death of one of the youths and attempting to kill the other three with malicious intent (taking advantage of the defencelessness of the victims)," reads the ruling, which runs to almost 100 pages.
"The accused here acted in a totally illegitimate and illegal manner, in total disregard of the regulations in force, which allows us to rule out [the version of events] that they acted under some kind of error or for any justified cause," declared the judge
"They did not shoot in order to prevent a possible [act of] aggression, but rather they fired directly at the teenagers without their being able to defend themselves," he added.
Judge Del Viso also justified the actions of the driver of the vehicle, who attempted to carry out evasive manoeuvres during the ensuing chase, infringing road traffic legislation in order to seek safety.
“The actions of Julian Alejandro Salas are at least justified in that, faced with the situation described, he tried to get away and, as he was prevented from passing along Iriarte Avenue, he carried out an evasive manoeuvre (returning against the direction of traffic), which in any case implied a reasonable infringement of the Traffic Law, given that the very physical integrity of the passengers of the vehicle was at stake," wrote the judge.
Notably, the magistrate also revealed that all three officers had an annual shooting practice test as part of their job. In last year’s edition, Issasi scored 100 percent, while officers López and Nieva registered 90 percent accuracy.
In another twist to the story, a new eyewitness came forward on Tuesday to reject the officers' version of events. An unidentified woman, whose name is being withheld for her own safety, told investigators that the officers did not sound their siren prior to the shooting, contradicting their version of events.
Gregorio Dalbón, the high-profile lawyer representing González’s family, said on Tuesday that the investigation had made “notable progress.”
Speaking before a reconstruction of the event, Dalbón said difficulties in identifying exactly which officer fired the fatal shot “does not matter.”
"It doesn't matter which of the three fired the fatal bullet. The three of them shot to kill and that was reflected in the indictment," the lawyer stressed. "It is historic what we have achieved. We must not forget that all this started as an armed confrontation.”
Dalbón, who famously has President Alberto Fernández and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner among his clients, forecast that the accused officers would be “ridiculed” once the wider public hears their explanation of events. According to reports, the trio have claimed they were working in Barracas on the orders of a special drug-related unit named UFEIDE.