Mystery surrounds the case of a teenage boy who disappeared for five days after he was detained by police Tuesday in Mexico City.
Two police officers are under investigation in the disappearance of Marco Antonio Sánchez, who was located last night in the México state municipality of Melchor Ocampo, 28 kilometers from where he was first arrested.
Sánchez was described as disoriented and there were signs that he had been badly beaten.
His disappearance triggered claims by human rights groups and his parents that the case was an enforced disappearance and a social media outcry followed, along with a large protest in Mexico City yesterday, hours before he was found.
Mexico City police arrested the 17-year-old in the northern borough of Azcapotzalco on January 23 for allegedly stealing a cell phone he was using to take photographs of a street mural.
Sánchez and a friend who was with him at the time denied involvement in any illegal activity.
Sánchez fled to a nearby bus station but four officers pursued him and allegedly beat him and put him in handcuffs before forcing him into a police vehicle and taking him away.
His friend took a photograph of Sánchez lying on the ground while being subjected to the police aggression and asked the officers where he would be taken. They responded that he would be transferred to the local public prosecutor’s office.
When the minor’s parents became aware of their son’s arrest later the same day, they contacted the prosecutor’s office in Azcapotzalco but were told that their son had already been released.
However, Sánchez’s whereabouts remained unknown.
At the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City yesterday, protesters directed their anger at city authorities for the disappearance.
“No more enforced disappearances,” read one placard and, “We want justice, no more kidnappings by authorities,” said another.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where Sánchez attends high school, and the Mexico City Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) also placed pressure on authorities to locate the missing minor and open an investigation.
The Mexico City government responded by mobilizing investigative police and prosecutors to locate the missing youngster.
On Saturday night, security cameras captured Sánchez on a bridge in the México state municipality of Tlalnepantla where it appeared that he intended to take his own life.
In the footage, Sánchez appeared disheveled and showed signs that he had received serious blows to the head.
State police subsequently located him and took him to a court in Tlalnepantla but he was released shortly after because it was determined that he hadn’t committed an offense.
At the time, no information was released publicly about his second arrest and subsequent release and it wasn’t until late yesterday afternoon that Sánchez’s parents were notified and shown the camera footage.
His father expressed discontent that he wasn’t informed of his son’s release from the Tlalnepantla court until 20 hours later, precipitating the need for another search.
It is not clear what happened between his first arrest Tuesday and his court appearance Saturday night.
After he was found last night, Sánchez was taken to the México state Attorney General’s office where he spent four hours before he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital. He was discharged early this morning.
Announcing the news of his having been located last night, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera denied that Sánchez had been forcibly disappeared.
“We understand and share the anger generated by the news that a person, in this case a youth, had been the target of an arbitrary arrest or enforced disappearance. Moreover, if that was what had happened, we would add [our voice] to that anger,” he stated.
The Mexico City police chief backed up the mayor’s position.
“The important thing today is to confirm that it is not an enforced disappearance . . .” Hiram Almeida said.
The four officers who arrested Sánchez were questioned and two of them remain in detention and under investigation for failing to follow proper police protocol.
Mexican security forces have been accused of committing human rights abuses in the past.
At least five enforced disappearances occurred in the state of Guerrero late last year and in 2014, 43 rural teaching students were abducted and presumably killed in the same state.