Trial for Joaquín Paredes: a murdered teenager, a broken town

Testimony of a police crime, by Alexis Oliva from Córdoba, Argentina

Last week the trial for the murder of Joaquín Paredes, victim of a police shooting in Paso Viejo, northwest of Cordoba, began in the Cruz del Axis Courts. A crime product of social discrimination and institutional violence.

Those who on that morning of October 25, 2020 fired state weapons and those who ran terrified through the open space behind the Paso Viejo dispensary, ten years earlier, were adolescents and children. If you could travel back in time, we could see them, perhaps in the same place, kick a ball. Or play cops and robbers.

Ten years later, those who shot were policemen, but those who escaped were not thieves. They were young people and adolescents whose “crime” was violating the Preventive and Mandatory Social Isolation in times of pandemic, drinking some wine and listening to music on public roads to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The policemen scolded them to leave, intimidated them with an itaca and they withdrew. After a while they returned with three cell phones, drew their weapons and shot them in the back as they fled.

Among them was Joaquín Paredes, a boy who was in his third year at Ipea 306 “Amadeo Sabattini” and worked in the potato harvest. That in those days he collected money to celebrate his own 16th birthday on November 2. But that day there was no party, there was mass, because Joaquín fell dead that night victim of a 9-millimeter shot to the back. Among those running were Brian Villagra, 14, who was shot in the arm and survived by a miracle, and Jorge Navarro, 18, who was shot in the ankle. The police did not assist them and the outraged youths and other residents attacked the police station and the clinic, prompting a new volley of shots.

A trial is not a time machine, but tries to reconstruct what happened, tries to “see” what happened in the past. This is what began on Monday 24 in the Criminal Chamber of the Courts of Cruz del Axis, made up of judges Ángel Andreu, Ricardo Py and Javier Rojo. The defendants are agents Maykel Mercedes López (25), Iván Alexis Luna (26), Enzo Ricardo Alvarado (29) and Ronald Nicolás Fernández Aliendro (27), Sergeant Jorge Luis Gómez (34) and Deputy Commissioner Daniel Alberto Sosa Gallardo ( 43).

“Everyone locked up, everyone shot, everyone abandoned… everyone killed”, was the slogan of the family and the Justicia por Joaquín collective from the beginning, which prior to the trial coincided with the criteria of the investigating prosecutor’s office, understanding that although the homicidal projectile “was launched by the weapon used by Maykel Mercedes López”, all the police officers “were responsible for the fatal result” for having committed “adjuvant and convergent actions”. Except for the most senior, Deputy Commissioner Sosa Gallardo, considered the author of “qualified threats for the use of a weapon” for having displayed his shotgun and telling them: “Leave or I’ll burn you,” although he later withdrew and returned when the disaster was over. .

At the request of the defenses, last November the Criminal Chamber of Villa Dolores distinguished the responsibilities, so that only the former agent López arrives at the trial detained and with the accusation of “perpetrator of simple homicide aggravated by the use of a firearm.” fire” and together with Luna “co-perpetrator of serious injuries in aggression aggravated by the use of a firearm”, while Alvarado, Gómez and Fernández Aliendro are only attributed the “omission of ex officio duties” and co-authorship of gunshots of qualified fire and Sosa Gallardo “qualified threat”.

However, on the first day of the trial, the prosecutor Fabiana Pochettino insisted that there was a planned “lock-up” and a coordinated attack: “It was malicious, they had the intention of killing and the boys could not defend themselves,” she assured in a shared hypothesis for the complaint that represents the Paredes family. In addition, she revealed that hours before, in the WhatsApp group of the Paso Viejo police officers, one of the defendants shared a selfie with the shotgun “to hunt saros” (the equivalent of “pibes choros”, in police jargon). For the representative of the public prosecutor’s office, all the police officers who shot were co-perpetrators of qualified homicide and the other charges: “I am convinced of what I raised and I am going to prove it.”

The lawyer Claudio Orosz, who together with Ramiro Fresneda represents the complaint of the family of Joaquín Paredes, made a positive assessment of the first week: “This preordination is being tested to teach these kids a lesson that ended with one death and a near miss.” dead,” he said. For him, with the passing of the testimonies, “it is clear that there was planning here, at least to repress these kids, some of whom the police already had between their eyebrows,” he concluded .

The song of the victimizers

Of the defendants, only López refrained from testifying. The others presented the coincident account of a procedure that began with the warning to the young people that they could not drink on public roads, which was met with insults and stones in response, that they only fired into the air and as a “last intimidating resort”, that a Twenty attackers damaged police vehicles and destroyed the facades of the sub-commission station, the dispensary and the justice of the peace, and that “there was never an agreement” to attack them with shots. But the narrative became confusing when answering what happened to Joaquín Paredes and the wounded, who shot them and why they didn’t help them. He also did not explain where the 112 shots revealed in the investigation came from.

Those who escaped from the shooting were not thieves, but the strategy of the defendants and their defenders seeks to install that idea. When his lawyer asked Iván Luna if any of those young people had a criminal record, he mentioned three and recited in great detail the alleged crimes committed, as if they were taking a lesson from him. The others “were drunk”, “they seemed drugged”, “they insulted and threw sticks and stones”, insisted the tuned police chorus. Deputy Commissioner Sosa did not accept questions and declared that after the first warning he had to go to Tuclame and Serrezuela. When he returned, Joaquín was already dead and his men took shelter from the stones behind the eucalyptus trees.

In the corridor of the Courts of Cruz del Axis, the defendants who came to trial at liberty cross paths with Joaquín’s relatives and the young survivors and today witnesses. Sosa takes the opportunity to offer condolences to Soledad Paredes, the victim’s mother. The plaintiff lawyer Claudio Orosz asks the court not to be approached again. When she testified, she said that she found out about what happened to her son from the neighbors: “And I was never summoned by the police or the prosecutor’s office.”

The Demonized Survivors

During the testimonies of the young people who were in front of the dispensary that night, some of Joaquín’s friends and most of them minors, the scene begins to take another turn. Already at the first warning, Sosa loaded the ithaca and pointed it at them. In the second incursion, they fired first with the shotgun and then with their regulation weapons “lots of shots.” The boys ran “in all directions” and Joaquín “straight ahead”, until a shot knocked him down. Brian was shot in the arm. “They shot directly at us. I threw myself to the ground and that’s why he hit my cousin on the arm,” said Mariano Torres (22), who had his birthday that night. Fabián Juárez (19) recalled that “Brian’s blood was running and we wanted to take him to the clinic.” But they did not open.

They all reported that they stayed by Joaquín’s side or returned to try to help him, at the risk of his own life. But “the policemen left when Joaquín fell,” said José Rodríguez (25). “There we went (to the corner of the sub-station) to tell them that Joaquín was dead, but they (the police) did not believe us, they did not want to do anything. So that’s when we reacted and started throwing stones, because Joaquín was lying there, do you understand me?” Emanuel Rodríguez (19) explained to one of the judges. “Then they threw us with everything. There could have been two or three deaths, because they were shooting to kill, ”he added.

At the time of the questions, the strategy of the defenses of criminalizing the witnesses was repeated: “What opinion do you have of Fulano?” “Do you know if Mengano had problems with the law?” “Do you know that Sultano has been absent for a while for having stolen?” “Did they consume alcohol and any other substance?” “I used marijuana. And I speak for myself”, replied one of the young people. “And the others?”. “Near me, nothing.” “And further away from you?” “Don’t know”. Thus, the procedure encourages witnesses to incriminate themselves or rat on their friends and neighbors, something akin to blaming the victim or an ad hoc “two demons” theory.

A Torn Town

There are also kinship ties between victims and perpetrators –some are cousins, others brothers-in-law– and ties typical of a town of just over a thousand inhabitants. Since that night, the threats and pressures, the job opportunities that suddenly ceased, and the trauma of what they experienced forced them to emigrate from Paso Viejo. The accused police officers – except for the most committed one, detained from the beginning – went in and out of jail, but the panorama of the trial is dark for all. Meanwhile, relatives of the victims and the police officers live in a community without peace.

In an article entitled There is no peace with impunity and published in the Qué Portal of the Faculty of Communication Sciences, the former priest, teacher and resident of Paso Viejo Carlos Julio Sánchez faces a basic problem: “It is said that the settlers do not They hire those who come to the mural on Mondays (in memory of Joaquín) for the harvest. Fucked up comments hurt us, stigmatizing monkeys. That they suck, that they take drugs, that they chore. It is clear that in the town alcohol, drugs and choreo run among many monkeys. As if alcohol rained down, drugs were brought by the wind and stolen items were bought by a Chinese company. It hurts us that it is said that the solution is ‘strong hand’ or that the shot in the back is justified, when there are no more opportunities for the scoundrel than exploitation in the crops or the Cruz del Eje prison, on the side of the bars, most; on the outside of the bars, some. They didn’t even give Joaquín those.”

On Friday’s session, Esteban Paredes, Joaquín’s grandfather and a retired police officer with 25 years of service, who carries this conflict on his own shoulders, declared: “When I was a police officer there were also many problems, but I would talk to people with respect , not with prepo as these policemen go. I never took anyone in front of me, I never went with weapons in hand ”. “Joaquín was an excellent son and grandson, I loved him, ask what he was, he was a sweetheart. Now I live on the outside but I’m dead on the inside,” he told the court. I knew that Joaquín didn’t take drugs and you know when I came to check it: with the forensic certificate. But, even if Joaquín took drugs, stole or had been the most annoying, that did not give them the right to kill him from behind.

Alexis Oliva is a journalist and teacher. Author of “Violence was born with me. Chronicles of lives in conflict”

First published in, here. Republished under license from the author.

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