The Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee (CDHNL) has accused Tamaulipas state police of carrying out extrajudicial killings of eight people last week and another in late August.
The Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) said that five men and three women were killed on September 5 in a clash with police in the Nuevo Laredo neighborhood of Valles de Anáhuac.
The SSP said the victims were presumed members of the Tropa del Infierno (Hell’s Army), an armed wing of the Northeast Cartel, a Zetas splinter group. It also said that police seized 15 weapons and an armored pickup truck in which the victims had been traveling.
The CDHNL, however, claims that the eight victims were not killed in the way in which the government reported. Media reports said that at least some of the victims had no history of involvement in criminal activities.
The CDHNL said on Tuesday that is has video footage that shows that there is no evidence of a gunfight at the Valles de Anáhuac location where the confrontation supposedly occurred.
Witness testimonies also discredit the official version of events.
According to the CDHNL, state police transported seven of the eight victims to a house where they were killed after they were rounded up up at two separate addresses early on Thursday morning.
Neighbors confirmed that seven people arrived at the address in the back of two pickup trucks. All of them were handcuffed and their faces were covered, the witnesses said.
The seven people were then taken inside the Avenue 7 home of Severiano Treviño, a soft drink company employee who became the eighth victim.
Treviño’s daughter Kassandra, who was at the address with her two-year-old daughter, said that state police came into their home and beat her father before dressing him in a military uniform and helmet.
The eight victims, all of whom were allegedly dressed in military attire by police, were later killed by gunshots to the head at close range, the CDHNL said.
Kassandra Treviño said police decided to spare her life because she had her infant daughter in her arms. However, the 18-year-old said she was beaten, removed from her home and abandoned on a nearby street. She reported her father’s murder to state authorities on Sunday.
Neighbors of the Treviño family said they heard a series of single gunshots coming from inside the house last Thursday morning but asserted that there were no bursts of gunfire indicative of a gunfight between police and the alleged gangsters, as the SSP said had occurred.
The CNDHL said that images disseminated by Tamaulipas authorities of the dead bodies of five men and three women dressed in military-style uniforms with weapons by their side were a “setup.”
According to the SSP, the eight victims were traveling in a black armored pickup truck prior to their deaths.
However, there is evidence that the vehicle was not where authorities said it was at the time the supposed confrontation took place. Rather, the CNDHL says, the pickup truck was transported to the crime scene later on Thursday morning.
Eladio Martínez, chief of the municipal tow truck service in Nuevo Laredo, said in a written report that he received a telephone call at 7:43am on September 5 from a Nuevo Laredo transportation official who told him that he had been given police orders to send a truck to an address on Francisco I. Madero street.
A tow truck driver, Ramón Rodríguez, was dispatched almost immediately and arrived at the address at 8:00am.
According to Rodríguez’s testimony, state police ordered him to tow the vehicle to an address on Avenue 7 in Valles de Anáhuac – Treviño’s home.
Rodríguez said that he was told to switch off his mobile telephone and keep quiet about the job by police who threatened that there would be consequences if he didn’t follow their instructions.
Security camera footage obtained by the CNDHL shows that at the time the vehicle was being transported, it had not yet sustained any gunfire damage even though the confrontation between police and the suspected criminals had already occurred, according to the SSP.
In response to the CNDHL allegations, the Tamaulipas government said it will collaborate with the National Human Rights Commission in its investigation into last week’s killings.
For its part, the CNDHL is demanding that the federal Attorney General’s Office investigate the case and has sent copies of all the evidence it has obtained to the office of President López Obrador.
The deaths of the eight people on September 5 came a week after another person was allegedly murdered by state police.
The CNDHL said on Wednesday that on August 27, Tamaulipas officers arbitrarily executed a 45-year-old woman who had been kidnapped by a crime gang.
Committee president Raymundo Ramos Vázquez said that two people who witnessed the woman’s murder made statements asserting that she was handcuffed at the time and shouting at police that she had been abducted. Police, who claimed that the woman was a member of a criminal group, allegedly shot her twice.
One of the witnesses who reported the incident to the Tamaulipas Human Rights Commission on August 29 said that he and another person had been detained by police prior to the alleged extrajudicial killing.
“We had been arrested and were in an armored state police vehicle when the shooting occurred. We saw the officers approach a blue pickup truck and shoot the woman and a young man who were not shooting, who didn’t have weapons,” he said.
A photograph shows that the woman was barefoot and not in possession of any weapons when police shot at her.
Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, who was in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, has not publicly addressed the CNDHL accusations.
Nuevo Laredo, a border city opposite Laredo, Texas, has seen a surge in violence in recent weeks.
At least 12 suspected members of the Northeast Cartel were killed during two clashes with police late last month, while on August 23 presumed hitmen of the same cartel attacked a Nuevo Laredo hotel in which police were staying, killing one officer and wounding two others.