Three of the eight soldiers arrested last week in connection with a gunfight June 30 in Tlatlaya have been charged with homicide, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam announced yesterday.
Twenty-two civilians were killed in a warehouse in the town of San Pedro Limón during a confrontation between soldiers and suspected drug gang members. The Defense Secretariat, Sedena, said at the time soldiers were fired upon while on patrol and they returned fire in self-defense.
Twenty-two people were killed in the gun battle that followed, said the official report. But questions were raised soon after by a journalist and United Nations investigators, and last week an eyewitness gave a different account, claiming the soldiers executed the civilians in the warehouse.
The Attorney General told a press conference yesterday that there had indeed been a gunfight, which lasted between eight and 10 minutes. The three soldiers who have been charged then entered the warehouse and resumed firing, said Murillo Karam, for which there was “no justification whatsoever.”
The eyewitness’s account of events, which came out two weeks ago, said the civilians had surrendered before they were killed. But the attorney general made no mention of that.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope told the New York Times that the story “sounds bizarre.”
“Everything is the result of only three soldiers; really? There is something that does not fit.”
In last week’s arrest of the eight soldiers, who were charged with military disobedience and breach of duty, defense authorities said there were “inconsistencies” in the reports on the incident, which had led to further investigation.
Also last week, Animal Político reported that the battalion involved in Tlatlaya has had other issues with civilians. In December its soldiers fired on four employees of the town of Arcelia, thinking they were criminal gang members.
The four had been out target shooting and were carrying firearms and dressed in hunting gear. Four soldiers were subsequently arrested.
In 2012, the newspaper Reforma reported that members of the battalion had received money from the gang La Familia in 2010 and 2011 in exchange for information regarding the battalion’s operations. Six were later arrested and charged.