Things That Matter

Protests Erupt After Police Kill A Mexican-American Teenager In Mexico

As much of the world comes to grip with systemic racism and the role that police play in our communities, people continue to die at the hands of police.

Mexico is no stranger to police brutality and authorities acting with impunity. From the unexplained death of Giovanni Lopez, the case of Mexico’s “Missing 43” to the recent killing of a 16-year-old Mexican-American teen who was visiting his grandparents in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico is reacting to cases of police brutality with protests and action.

A 16-year-old boy from the U.S. was shot dead by police while in Mexico.

A 16-year-old Mexican-American boy, Alexander Martínez Gómez, had spent many years of his short live living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, after a run in with police in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Alexander is dead and his family and friends are in mourning.

Details of the shooting remain unclear but, according to media reports, Alexander and a group of friends walked to a tiendita to buy sodas when he was shot at from a police car in an attack that also injured a friend.

In speaking to Reforma, a family member said: “They were in a gas station buying a soda. They started to shoot, and because these 15- and 16-year-old boys were scared, they ran. They didn’t give them the option to stop or take off their face masks. They simply started to shoot and they shot him in the head. Alexander died instantly because the police didn’t want to give him first aid.”

Local press reports said Alexander was staying with his grandparents in the town where he was shot. Relatives say he was born in North Carolina to Mexican parents.

The police have responded with a mix of regret and blame.

Credit: Manuel Ugarte / Getty Images

The city government expressed regret for the shooting on its Facebook page and said they had turned over evidence to the state investigators. However, they also tried to pass off the shooting as an accident, saying it was not carried out “in bad faith or to harm the community.”

Officials also tried to show their unwavering support for the police by using the hashtag: #TheHistoryOfThePoliceForcesSpeakForItself.

To many Mexicans, the statement was dejavú as it’s quite common for authorities in the country to blame the victims of violence for the crimes and brutality committed against them – especially by the police.

“They want to incriminate Alexander to justify the vileness of their actions,” tweeted Javier Valdivia, a native of Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa

Friends, family, and the community have come together to demand justice for Alexander.

Credit: Manuel Ugarte / Getty Images

Communities on both sides of the border demonstrated to demand justice for Alexander.

“We came in a caravan from town, with the support of all the people, who told us to keep going,” said Teodoro Martínez, the boy’s father. “We are not going to give them much time to get to the bottom of this.”

The father left North Carolina to attend his son’s funeral, but he has no visa and may not be able to return, he fears. 

In an especially emotional moment, his casket was taken to the local soccer field and placed in the penalty box area. One of his friends passed the ball, which bounced off the casket and into the goal so Martínez could score a final goal as onlookers shouted “justice.”

Alexander’s murder comes just days after police have been implicated in the murder of another man in Guadalajara.

Much like the growing movement for racial justice and inequality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Mexico too is seeing massive protests against police brutality.

The murder of Alexander comes just weeks after police forcibly detained Giovanni Lopez for not wearing a mask on the Guadalajara Metro. He was found dead by his family the very next day.

Subsequent protests against police violence were themselves met by further police violence. About 80 people were seized by plainclothes police officers on their way to a demonstration in the city of Guadalajara, and held for hours. The victims said they were beaten, threatened with death and eventually dumped in isolated areas.

Evidence collected by human rights groups suggested that security forces in Mexico are routinely responsible for abuse, torture and extrajudicial killings.

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