A cop on house arrest was killed by his own dog while he awaited trial for one of Argentina’s most emblematic cases of alleged police abuse in recent memory.
In 2019, Argentine police shot at a car during a high-speed pursuit—shots that prosecutors later described as without “probable cause”. The car under pursuit then crashed into a parked trailer, killing three young teenagers and one adult. After protests and outrage, 24 police were charged for either being involved in the incident or helping to cover it up.
One of the highest-ranking of those officers was retired local commissioner Claudio Martínez, who was attacked by one of his Rottweiler dogs at his residence while on house arrest. He later died at the hospital on May 10 from blood loss related to a wound on his arm. Martínez is accused of covering up the 2019 incident and neglecting his duties as a public official.
His death brings renewed attention to the upcoming trial in Argentina that led to practically an entire local police force being arrested for alleged abuse of authority.
What exactly happened in the early morning hours of May 20, 2019, is still unclear. 22-year-old Carlos Aníbal Suárez went for a late-night drive in the town of San Miguel del Monte with four young teenagers: Camila López, 13; Danilo Sansone, 13; Gonzalo Domínguez, 14; and Rocío Quagliarello, 13, when they came under fire from local police. Only Quagliarello survived the ensuing crash, and spent weeks in intensive care.
The next day, protests erupted in San Miguel del Monte, about an hour south of Buenos Aires, as well as other parts of Argentina, with calls for the police who instigated the pursuit of the vehicle to be investigated. It soon became known throughout the country as the “Monte Massacre.”
It’s alleged that three police officers drove up to the car and flashed either a gun or a flashlight, causing the driver of the vehicle with the teenagers inside to flee. The police allegedly fired at the car during the ensuing chase, which then ran into a parked trailer, totaling the vehicle and killing four of its passengers. Several bullets from the officers’ guns were found at the scene of the accident, including one discovered inside 14-year-old Gonzalo Domínguez.
The police department then allegedly tried to cover up the crime and make it seem like an accident, but failed. Eventually, 24 police officers were charged in February 2021, the majority of the local police force in the town. Prosecutors allege that there was no well-founded reason for the three officers to have engaged with the vehicle and carried out the “illegitimate aggression” that led to the teenagers’ death. They also allege that 21 other officers helped them obfuscate the evidence.
Two years after that fateful night, the lone surviving victim, Rócio Quagliarello, discussed her lasting trauma in her first interview since the crash: “What they [the police] caused doesn’t have a cure.”
“The only expectation is that [those responsible] serve their sentence for the rest of their lives,” Quagliarello told local media.
Nearly three years after the incident, the emblematic case has yet to go to trial. While one of those officers will not face justice due to the attack from his Rottweiler, another 23 will someday soon.