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Military Shooting at Civilians: Video Shows Apparent Extrajudicial Execution in Nuevo Laredo

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“Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat

The images also show that the soldiers altered the crime scene. They placed weapons next to the bodies and removed handcuffs from one of them after he was already dead.

Military personnel dragged one of the wounded in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on May 18, 2023.

A security camera video shows a new case of mistreatment of five civilians in Nuevo Laredo, in addition to their apparent murder, at the hands of military personnel. The footage, taken on May 18, shows the military taking the civilians out of a pickup truck. Some of the civilians are carrying weapons. The soldiers disarm them, kick them and then place them next to a wall. Minutes later, in a strange moment, the soldiers seem to take shelter from something and, in the meantime, shoot at the civilians. All are killed on the spot except one, who dies later in the hospital.

The images, to which EL PAÍS has had access, show how the soldiers, with the five already dead, also alter the scene. One of the elements grabs long weapons with a red bag to avoid touching them with his hands and leaving fingerprints, and places them next to the corpses. Later, another notices that one of the bodies is still wearing the handcuffs, which they had put on him earlier. He asks another colleague for the key and they are removed. In between, paramedics have come to the scene to take away one of the five, the one who would later die in the hospital. The prosecutor’s office did not arrive until hours later.

The officer in charge of the military convoy, infantry lieutenant José Luis N., signed the account of what happened before the Attorney General’s Office, in charge of the investigations. In the report, of which this newspaper has a copy, the lieutenant states that he and his men were disarming the civilians, when their companions attacked them with gunfire, “in an attempt to rescue their personnel”. According to the officer, the soldiers fired back. Meanwhile, the detained civilians were trying to recover their weapons, according to this version. After the shooting, the soldiers realized that four of the five were dead and one more was in “critical condition”, as a result of the crossfire.

The lieutenant’s version contrasts with the video, since in the images no other civilian truck is seen near where they are, nor anyone other than the military firing. It can be seen how the soldiers try to take shelter, but it is not possible to see if they are being shot at. In any case, the video shows how at least three soldiers shoot at the five unarmed civilians next to the wall. 

Between the soldiers’ shots, one of the five is moving, wriggling, as if he wanted to flee. He looks wounded, blindfolded. Seconds later, he stops moving. EL PAÍS has contacted a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense (Sedena) to find out if the agency has taken any action on what happened. The response was: “I have no information on the matter. I locate the event as such, but I have no further information. I would have to check.

The military approaching the vehicle of the armed civilians.

The episode is reminiscent of the one that occurred in February in the Cavazos Lerma neighborhood, also in Nuevo Laredo. Then, soldiers killed five unarmed young men and left another badly wounded. All had just spent the night at a discotheque. A seventh young man, who was unharmed, later said that the soldiers had attacked them with gunfire for no reason as they were returning home. This young man also said that the soldiers shot one of his colleagues, who was badly wounded, as he was getting out of the car in which they were all riding, when the soldiers had the situation under control.

The February case was highly publicized in the press because several videos showed family members of the boys confronting the soldiers who were guarding the scene. Some soldiers were shooting in the air or on the ground. Civilians managed to knock down some soldiers and kicked them on the ground. The images of that day illustrate the consequences of the covert war that the northeastern border has been experiencing for years. The presumed easy triggering of the military – if it was not something worse – had had fatal consequences.

When the case reached the ears of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, he regretted what had happened, although he avoided pointing out any war and channeled his account in the logic of isolated events. Trying to distance himself from the two previous governments, which registered dozens of cases of extrajudicial executions, tortures and forced disappearances, perpetrated by marines and the military, Lopez Obrador usually points to the punctual error, the theory of rotten apples.

The video, step by step

The sequence of the May 18 case shows the final part of a chase that began after 2:30 p.m., between Lago Chapala Street and Monterrey Avenue, in the south of the border city. The video starts when a dark half-cab pickup truck crosses Monterrey Avenue at full speed and crashes into a wall, just below the security camera of a shopping mall. The time is 14:36. After the crash, military personnel appear walking, pointing at the vehicle. A military vehicle, known in the media as a Sand Cat, used for urban operations, supports them. 

The Sand Cat crashes into the passenger’s door and the rear door, preventing anyone from getting out. Meanwhile, other military personnel pull the crewman and his companions out of the pilot’s side. Some of them are wearing bulletproof vests and carrying long guns. The soldiers take them off. Some soldiers shoot, apparently at the ground. Because of the shock, the men seem half disoriented. The soldiers subdue them and several kick them. In his report, Lieutenant José Luis N states that “one of them had an exposed wound on his head, due to the vehicular collision”.

Then the confusing episode begins. The Sand Cat leaves the lot where the wall is, heading north. At least eight soldiers stay with the detainees. They are close to them, kicking them from time to time. It is 14:45. Suddenly, they all gather around the civilians’ truck, some on the driver’s side and others on the passenger side. Shots can be seen hitting the ground, about 15 meters away from them, but it is not clear if they are from their own weapons or from others. Most of them pass to the passenger’s side, except for one, who remains on the driver’s side, a few meters away from where the civilians are. In the images he is seen firing at the detainees several times. From the other side of the truck, two other soldiers shoot at them with their long weapons.

It is then that one of the five civilians tries to flee, crawling away. His face is covered with a bandage. Several of the soldiers shoot at him and he stops moving. The rest do not move, the four lie inert next to the wall. Minutes later the Army Sand Cat appears again, a few hundred meters away, on Monterrey Avenue. No other vehicles are seen nearby. It is 14:48 in the afternoon, everything has happened in just 12 minutes.

Five minutes later, one of the soldiers breaks away from the shelter they have found between the nose of the truck, the front doors, and the wall. He goes to the back, the one facing the avenue. He picks up a rag or a red bag from the ground. He stops for a few seconds because four or five cars pass by on the avenue. The soldiers gesture for them to go away. When no one passes, he grabs a rifle from the bag. He walks and places it next to the body of one of the dead civilians. He then repeats the operation: he returns to the truck, takes another rifle and leaves it next to the body of another of the dead.

In the following minutes, everyone seems to be calm. They are sitting or leaning between the truck and the wall. One of the soldiers seems wounded, lying on the right front tire of the truck. His companions seem to be comforting him. In his report, Lieutenant José Luis N. explains that he is a sergeant, in charge of the vehicle’s machine gun, supposedly from the Sand Cat. As he tells it, the sergeant “was injured by shrapnel in his face, the result of impacts that hit the cartridge case of the machine gun.”


At 15:01 the Sand Cat approaches the crash site, accompanied by at least three military vehicles. It positions itself next to the bushes and stays there. Five minutes later, one of the soldiers standing next to the civilian truck takes a package from the back seat and hands it to a colleague, who has a cigarette in his mouth. He grabs it and leaves the scene. Immediately after, a group of five soldiers, confident of the presence of the military vehicles, approach the bodies. They seem to touch two of them with their feet. Supposedly, one of them is still alive. Seconds later they drive away. At 3:14 p.m., one of the two men, in white, is seen moving his arms.

Dying, no one approaches him. He moves his arms, his feet, while the soldiers look at him from a distance. They seem to realize that they have made a mistake. The comrade who had previously placed weapons on the bodies has left one near the wounded man. But the civilian seems to have almost no strength left. At 15.17 he is approached by six soldiers, one is carrying a black backpack, another is pointing it at him, just in case he should grab the rifle. But he doesn’t. It is not clear what follows. In his report, Lieutenant José Luis N says that a military doctor gave first aid to the wounded man and that, in the meantime, they called an ambulance. The officer notes that the medical vehicle arrived at 15.45.

The military follow protocol. By then, they have already surrounded the scene with yellow tape. The ambulance arrives and four paramedics take the injured civilian away on a stretcher. They put him in the vehicle and leave. In the report, the lieutenant says that “upon continuing with the inspection of the place, two vehicles abandoned by organized crime were found on the same avenue, in a northerly direction. They are two armored vehicles. Inside they found long arms and a .50 caliber rifle, capable of piercing armor.

Parmedics arrive on the scene.

Further ahead they find another vehicle, already on Arandillo Street. In that one they find nothing, but bullet holes. The lieutenant says that those vehicles were the ones that were trying to rescue the five detained civilians. The officer says that at that moment, after 4:00 p.m., they call the FGR office in Nuevo Laredo to report the matter. While they wait, the military try to clean up any mark of irregularity. At 4:28 p.m., one of them notices that one of the four dead civilians left by the wall is wearing handcuffs. He asks him for the keys and takes them off. Another soldier looks on. After a while, experts and prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office arrive at the scene.

The case was a big news story in Nuevo Laredo, not because of the possible executions, but because of the number of alerts it generated on social networks. The confrontations surrounding the alleged murders shook the south of the city. In videos shared on social networks, neighbors can be seen lying on the ground, sheltering from the bullets. The mayor, Carmen Canturosas, asked the population through Facebook not to leave home or work. As usually happens in cases like this, the alarms of that day were met with silence afterwards. Neither the FGR nor Sedena said a word about what happened or the status of the investigations. When asked about it on Tuesday, the Attorney General’s Office did not answer.

El País


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