BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentines protested police brutality Friday after officers fired shots that led to the deaths of three teenagers and a young man in a car chase.
Authorities have removed 13 officers from the force and detained seven of them pending an investigation. The case has caused a public uproar that prompted hundreds of people to stage a march “against the trigger-happy” in Argentina’s capital.
The car with the 22-year-old man and three teens aged 13 to 14 was driving Monday in the town of San Miguel del Monte, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires. Police said a suspicious car had been reported and the car with the teens failed to stop on police orders.
A chase ensued and shots were fired by the police. The car crashed into a truck and the four were killed. Another teenager was seriously injured.
“We’ve determined the deaths were produced by the collision that arose from the speed and destabilization of the vehicle generated by the chase and the shots,” said Buenos Aires attorney general Julio Conte Grand.
Initial investigations show that a bullet pierced through one of the victims and several bullet shells from guns carried by the police officers were found on the site.
“There was no reason for them to shoot,” he said.
The Buenos Aires province security minister said police procedure was poorly carried out.
Human rights advocates joined families of victims of police violence at Friday’s demonstration. They blame an iron-fisted crime policy carried out by President Mauricio Macri’s administration, and they say the latest deaths could set a dangerous precedent in a country haunted by memories of human rights crimes during its 1976-1983 dictatorship.
“Stop killing the people, stop killing the young,” said human rights leader Nora Cortiñas. “This country must give an image that there’s no impunity for these crimes. Everyone who tortures and kills must go to jail.”
Some held photos of the young people killed this week.
“We knew we had to come out to ask for justice for the kids,” said Mónica Alegre, who said her teenage son Luciano Arruga disappeared in 2009 after he was detained by police and was found dead in 2014.
Last year, a photograph of Macri shaking hands with an off-duty police officer who fatally shot a man in the back after he stabbed and robbed a U.S. tourist sparked a heated debate over the limits of a crackdown on crime.
At the time, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the photo ratified the government’s position that security forces are not always guilty and even celebrated that citizens under trial for taking justice into their own hands have been absolved.
But she has been highly critical of police in the latest deaths.
“If what happened is verified, I wouldn’t even call them police officers,” Bullrich said. “Police officers who behave like thieves and killers will be treated like thieves and killers.”