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Cops in Mexico Slum Killings Tried

October 3, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ The grieving relatives of three men who were killed last month after police led them away from a Mexico City slum cursed and shouted Friday at 19 officers who have been charged in the shootout.

``Assassins! Damned Assassins!″ screamed Juana Peralta, 36, as the officers were taken one-by-one into a barred room at a prison where a court clerk read the charges against them.

``Gangsters! We will get justice from God!″ she shouted, breaking into tears. Her 17-year-old son Juan Carlos was among those killed during a Sept. 8 shootout in the crime-ridden Buenos Aires district.

The police arrests followed a public clamor for justice. Some believe the killings are related to a series of raids police have been carrying out in high-crime neighborhoods over the past year. The raids, often conducted without court warrants, are often violent.

Police have confiscated little criminal evidence during the raids and most of those arrested have been released for lack of evidence.

The raids are the police response to a crime wave that has shaken the Mexican capital for two years. The city has an average of 560 crimes a day involving weapons _ five or six of them homicides.

One of the 19 officers has been charged with homicide and the others with abuse of authority, but relatives of those slain said Friday they weren’t satisfied that justice was being carried out.

Police said the officers are being prosecuted on the basis of circumstantial evidence, mainly on blood and ballistics tests. But they have refused to say why only one was charged with homicide, or to elaborate on what ``abuse of authority″ allegedly was committed.

``I don’t believe only one person committed the murders,″ scoffed Jesus Romero, the 35-year-father of Juan Carlos. ``There are others. I think they only found a scapegoat.″

Officials are saying little about what happened Sept. 8 in the poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires, or what happened to six men who were detained there by police SWAT teams.

The bodies of three of the men _ Juan Carlos Peralta, 17, Daniel Colin Enciso, 21, and Oscar Ivan Mora Lecea, 18 _ were found Sept. 9 in a vacant lot. They appeared to have been tortured. One was killed with a shotgun blast to the face, the others with 9 mm bullets to the head.

The bodies of three other young men were found Monday on the slopes of a volcano southwest of the city. Medical examiners said they were too decomposed for immediate identification, but family members of the men detained by police in Buenos Aires claim they recognized their clothing.

One them, Maria de la Luz Alonso, pushed her way through a pack of photojournalists at Friday’s hearing and stared into TV cameras to give what she said was a message for President Ernesto Zedillo.

``Tell the president, `Please help us! Find out what happened to my son,″ said the woman, who believes tatters of clothing on the volcano have identified her missing son, Angel Leal Alonso, 24.

Relatives and human rights groups contend the young men were killed in revenge for the fatal shooting of one police officer and wounding of another during a gun battle, also on Sept. 8.

In an unusual step, the president of Mexico City’s human rights commission, Luis de la Barreda, said Friday he would personally investigate the killings.

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