SANTIAGO – Four former police officers in Chile have been arrested over the fatal shooting of a young indigenous man in the restive southern region of Araucanía that led to massive protests across the South American country.
Chileans are angry over the killing of Camilo Catrillanca, the 24-year-old grandson of a prominent Mapuche indigenous leader, during the raid by a Carabineros’ elite squad in the Temucuicui community of Ercilla, in the Region of Araucanía.
“Jungle Commandos” is a heavily armed tactical unit of the national police force, known as the Carabineros.
Camilo was driving his tractor along with a 15-year-old boy when Carabineros shot against them despite the lack of threat to life. Police officers said they came under fire to justify shooting at the two Mapuches but they were also found responsible for destroying the video recording of the incident.
The youth also said that the officer who fired the fatal shot replaced the memory card in his helmet camera – contradicting officers’ initial testimonies that there was no video of the shooting.
The four ex-officers – who were removed from the police after the incident – are due to appear in court on Friday, on allegations that include obstruction of justice and homicide.
The officer later admitted destroying the memory card – although the national police director, Hermes Soto, said he had done so because it contained compromising images of the officer and his wife.
“The investigation is bearing fruit and our government will continue to seek truth to ensure that justice is served in the case of the death of this indigenous man,” said Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick
The Mapuche have long accused the state and private companies of taking their ancestral lands for forestry and other industries, draining its natural resources and using indiscriminate violence against them.
On the other hand, according to the country’s interior minister, the region of Araucanía has seen 920 arson attacks, 924 armed confrontations and 509 attacks on police since 2013.