Tuesday, June 18, 2024

5-year-old among this year’s victims of stray New Year’s bullets

A 5-year-old boy’s death from a stray bullet in the first minutes of the New Year has left a Michoacán community in shock and mourning, and many say that the practice that led to his death — residents greeting the New Year with a hail of gunfire into the air — was inexcusable and criminal.

Juan Carlos Aburto died when a stray bullet passed through the roof of his home in Apatzingán and entered his thorax while he slept. He never even managed to open his eyes, his mother said.

“He tried to breathe, but already he couldn’t,” she said. “That was his last gasp of air, and then my son was gone.”

The Catholic Church declared three days of mourning for the boy. The bishop called the boy’s death a crime and said that in the six years that he has been assigned to the diocese, at least three people have died from related incidents during celebrations.

Authorities publicly condemned the tragedy, which they said happened despite preventive measures this year to avoid the New Year’s tradition. However, no one has been arrested. Apatzingán Mayor José Luis Lucatero said celebratory gunfire had been reduced this year.

Known to family and friends as “El Güerito,” or “the light-skinned one,” Juan Carlos was laid to rest in a tiny white coffin on New Year’s Day, just five days before the Kings’ Day holiday, when he was hoping to receive a ball as a gift from the Three Wise Men.

Instead, his family held a wake and mourned with friends and neighbors for the boy who all described as friendly, interested in learning, a lover of arcade games and prone to singing and dancing. He was known to share with his two siblings, aged 2 and 7, the abandoned toys he collected from the street while selling bread to help his family’s finances.

According to his mother, the bullet that killed her son entered the house through the thin sheet of roofing covering the family’s house and struck Juan Carlos as he clung to a stuffed animal in his sleep.

The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was confirmed dead.

His funeral brought out several members of the community, including a group of taxi drivers who presented the boy’s father with money they had collected on the family’s behalf. Others expressed indignation on social media at Juan Carlos’s death, repeating the slogan, “Not one bullet more.”

The New Year’s practice is not unique to Apatzingán. Federal, state and municipal authorities all over Mexico have called for it to stop. In various locales in the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, people reported injuries from similar celebrations.

In Sonora, a 23-year-old Nogales man got a bullet lodged in his back after it entered his home through the roof. In Hermosillo, a woman standing outside her home was grazed in the hand and a 28-year-old man was wounded in the forearm.

In Culiacán, Sinaloa, municipal and state officials had also made appeals that fell upon deaf ears. Four people sustained minor injuries from stray bullets this year after a hail of gunfire at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Day.

Sources: El Universal (sp), Excélsior (sp) Zócalo (sp), El Sol de Sinaloa (sp)

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