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Young man killed by Zapopan police officer

November 5, 2013

A 21-year-old male was shot dead by a Zapopan police officer in an apparent accident that occurred after he was pulled over in his vehicle in the early hours of last Friday morning.

Despite not having committed any infraction, Erick Fernando Chavez Trejo was stopped in his Jeep Grand Cherokee on the Periferico beltway near the intersection with Rinconada Peñaranda at around 12.30 a.m.

Frustrated at being pulled over, Chavez reportedly remonstrated with officer David Ramirez Santiago, who hit him over the head with his pistol. In doing so he inadvertently pulled the trigger and shot the young man in the head from point-blank range. The officers on duty called for an ambulance but Chavez died while receiving medical attention.

Zapopan Mayor Hector Robles Peiro slammed the incident as “outrageous” and “intolerable,” and vowed to improve the municipal police force’s training programs and protocols. He also said that his administration would compensate the victim’s family, with the amount likely to be determined by a local judge.

Hernan Guizar Maldonado, the head of the Zapopan police force, defended the current protocol, under which officers can carry out “precautionary revisions” of vehicles if they suspect there may be armed men onboard.

Ramirez, who joined the force in August 2001, has been suspended without pay while the Prosecutor General’s Office investigates the case. The fact that an officer with 12 years of experience could act so recklessly raises serious questions about the caliber of officers on duty in Zapopan – and across Mexico in general.

Such incidents are not uncommon. The day after Chavez was killed, members of the Huehuetoca municipal police force in the State of Mexico shot and killed a 14-year-old boy in an apparent attempt to break up a fight.

In a bid to root out corruption and unprofessionalism, all of Mexico’s federal, state and municipal police officers have been undergoing thorough background checks in recent years, but the process has been slow and over one thousand officers in the municipality of Guadalajara alone had not been tested prior to the October 31 deadline. Under the rules of the examinations, the 242 officers who failed and the 1,062 who never submitted to the tests should all now be dismissed from the Guadalajara police force.

Zapopan was the first municipality in the metropolitan area to test its entire police force, but only last week Mayor Robles controversially suggested that the 389 officers that failed should be allowed to take the tests again, because the results had not been conclusive.

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