Charges confirmed against officer in Argentine shooting

February 16, 2018

In this handout photo provided by the Argentine Presidency, released Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, right, shakes hands with police officer Luis Chocobar at the presidential house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Macri hailed Chocobar after the policeman shot a escaping robber on the back, raising fears that Macri's embrace will give the country's police force, with a long history of abuses, a green light to shoot first and ask questions later. (AP Photo/Argentine Presidency)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — An Argentine court on Friday confirmed murder charges against an off-duty police officer who was praised by President Mauricio Macri after he fatally shot a man who robbed a U.S. tourist.

The court turned down an appeal by police officer Luis Chocobar. He shot 18-year-old Pablo Kukoc in the back on Dec. 8 after he stabbed American citizen Joe Wolek in Buenos Aires. The court said Chocobar could have adopted less hurtful measures, including warning shots, chasing the suspect, or waiting for backup from security forces that had already been alerted to the robbery.

Macri said in a press conference Friday that he disagrees with the judges on the Chocobar case.

“Police have to take care of us, not the criminals,” he said.

Kukoc’s family and human rights groups were angered when Macri invited Chocobar to the presidential palace and gave him a hero’s welcome. A photo of Macri shaking hands with the police officer sparked a debate over the limits of a government crackdown on crime.

The government said the meeting’s goal was to highlight the hard work of Argentina’s security forces and show that authorities are not always the guilty ones.

Argentines concerned about rising crime also congratulated Chocobar for saving Wolek. But human rights advocates said Macri’s support of the officer sets a dangerous precedent in a country haunted by memories of human rights abuses committed by authorities during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Chocobar has said that he covered his face with one hand and shot Kukoc with the other because he feared the teenager would attack him. After Friday’s ruling, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the government “continues to believe that the police officer did what he had to do,” because “in a life or death situation, the police have to act.”


Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao contributed to this report.

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