Three police officers in Argentina were arrested after allegedly killing a 17-year-old soccer player as he was on his way home from a team practice last week. The death of Lucas González, a youth player for the Buenos Aires-based Barracas Central soccer club, caused outrage across the South American nation.
González and three friends reportedly left the team facility in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires on November 17 and had stopped at a convenience store to buy juice, when an unmarked vehicle passed by that made the boys suspicious. The boys quickly sped off in their own car believing they were going to be robbed. The vehicle began pursuing the boys and shooting at their car. Two bullets hit González—one in the head and another in the lung—and he died in the hospital the following day.
Authorities later confirmed reports that three police officers had been dressed in civilian clothes and were driving the vehicle, which did not bear any police branding. It's unclear if it was an unmarked patrol car or a personal automobile. Authorities also confirmed that the boys did not fire on the police before the cops allegedly shot González.
“It's a case of an ‘itchy trigger finger’, because they can’t take out a gun and shoot some kids. They shot to kill him. These people [the police] are not trained to carry a weapon,” Cintia López, the mother of the deceased teen, told local media. International NGO Human Rights Watch calls “police abuse” a “longstanding human rights” issue in Argentina.
Buenos Aires Justice and Security Minister Marcelo D'Alessandro held a press conference announcing the suspension of the officers as the case is investigated.
“We will not be flexible with police who act outside the law,” said D'Alessandro.
The three suspended officers have been named as Fabián López, 43, José Nievas, 36, and 40-year-old Gabriel Isassi. The incident took place just hours after the Buenos Aires government held a five-year-anniversary celebration for the creation of a unified city police unit in the city, which the three officers are members of.
Argentina President Alberto Fernández tweeted that “we will make all the resources of the State available to be able to reach truth and justice.”
“It is not possible that police officers who must be at the service of the security of Argentines, end the lives of the people they were supposed to protect,” he continued.
The death of rising soccer star González was grieved by the Argentine soccer community. Barracas Central declared three days of mourning without sports and social activities.
“With infinite sadness, today we say goodbye to Lucas,” the team wrote in a statement. “Our condolences to the relatives, friends, colleagues of Lucas and we ask for JUSTICE.”