A pregnant 15-year-old girl and a 54-year-old man died from injuries they sustained when presumed members of the National Guard (GN) opened fire on their vehicle without apparent reason in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on Sunday.
The driver and two other passengers in the vehicle, an SUV with Texas license plates, were wounded, according to the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee (CDHNL), a nongovernmental organization. The occupants of the vehicle were family members and friends who were reportedly traveling to a social event shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday.
A GN artilleryman shot at the vehicle at least 86 times, CDHNL president Raymundo Ramos said in an interview.
Miriam Mariana “F.” who was eight months pregnant, died in hospital on Monday. Doctors reportedly performed a cesarean section but her baby was stillborn. Jesús Felipe “G,” who was shot in his hip and thigh, died at the scene of the attack.
An adolescent boy, a 24-year-old woman and the 24-year-old man who was driving the SUV were wounded and taken to hospital for treatment.
The seemingly unprovoked attack came less than two months after soldiers fired at a vehicle in Nuevo Laredo, in which a group of seven apparently unarmed men were traveling. Federal prosecutors last week formally charged four soldiers with murdering five of the men.
According to a complaint filed by the CDHNL on Monday, the driver of the SUV that came under attack on Sunday noticed that a GN patrol vehicle was following him.
The driver, who was in a relationship with the pregnant teenager, said that the patrol vehicle suddenly opened fire on his vehicle. The man, identified as Luis Adán Rodríguez Santiago, said he swerved into the other lane on the highway before losing control of his vehicle and colliding with a lane barrier.
Rodríguez, who was shot in his back and reported to be in serious condition, said he attempted to reach his wounded girlfriend.
“I was moving toward her, she was bleeding and the [GN] troops shouted at me, ‘Don’t come any closer, asshole, we’re going to kill you!’” he said, according to the CDHNL complaint, which was addressed to President López Obrador, the federal ministers of the Interior and National Defense and the head of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).
“They just looked at us, then I hugged [Miriam] and … the National Guard troops left,” Rodríguez said.
Another GN patrol car reached the scene minutes later and called for ambulances that transported the victims to hospital.
An official crime scene report largely matched the account of the shooting in the CDHNL complaint. The report said that 83 spent bullet casings were found on the Libramiento Vial Mex II highway where the SUV crashed into a barrier.
Verónica Treviño, the 24-year-old woman wounded in the attack, told investigators from her hospital bed that the National Guard “started to shoot at us without any apparent reason.”
Another passenger told investigators that the GN may have been chasing a truck full of gunmen who had fired at the patrol vehicle. The passenger said that their SUV may have accidentally bumped into the GN vehicle when it was passing, possibly leading members of the security force to believe that they were involved in the attack.
Ramos, the CDHNL’s president, called on authorities including the National Guard to not let the aggressors get away with the crime.
“The National Guard knows who the troops who attacked the family are,” he said.
Ramos said that authorities must not “cover up” for or “protect” the guardsmen involved in the attack.
“They have to face justice,” he said, asserting that the hands of those responsible are “stained with blood.”
Ramos said that once GN personnel saw that there were no weapons or drugs in the SUV they quickly left the scene without providing any assistance to the victims. The pregnant teenager could have survived if she had received first aid promptly, he said.
In the CDHNL complaint, Ramos urged López Obrador to order an “exhaustive, urgent and transparent investigation” into the incident. The Federal Attorney General’s Office will likely investigate the case as it involves the National Guard, a federal security force that was recently placed under the control of the Ministry of National Defense.
The current federal government created the National Guard to replace the Federal Police.