Fugitive police officer arrested in killing of college student in Mexico

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A fugitive police officer has been arrested for the killing of a student whose death inflamed tensions over one of Mexico’s worst human rights tragedies, authorities said Wednesday.

Yanqui Gomez, 23, was shot dead on March 7 in a confrontation with police in the southern state of Guerrero, prompting angry students to set fire to patrol cars.

Gomez attended the Ayotzinapa college, the same teaching training center as 43 students whose murky disappearance nearly a decade ago shocked the nation.

Vehicles burn, after students from Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College threw petrol bombs at the facilities of Guerrero Government’s Palace, during a protest to demand justice for their slain colleague Yanqui Kothan Gomez, in Chilpancingo, Mexico, April 8, 2024.

Oscar Guerrero / REUTERS


“Today at dawn the police officer who killed the young man from Ayotzinapa was arrested. All those who participated are now in prison,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

The officer was detained at a ranch protected by guards, he said at his daily news conference.

The shooting took place a day after protesters smashed open a door to Mexico’s presidential palace demanding to meet Lopez Obrador to discuss the Ayotzinapa case.

The 43 students had been traveling to a demonstration in Mexico City in 2014 when investigators believe they were kidnapped by a drug cartel in collusion with corrupt police.

The exact circumstances of their disappearance are still unknown, but a truth commission set up by the government has branded the case a “state crime,” saying the military shared responsibility, either directly or through negligence.

Arrests have been made or ordered for dozens of suspects. In 2022, federal agents arrested former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who oversaw the original investigation. 

Authorities have been able to identify burned bone fragments of only three of the 43 missing students. The work largely involves searching for clandestine body dumping grounds in rural, isolated parts of the state where drug cartels are active. In October, officials conducted DNA tests to determine if some of the students were among 28 charred bodies found in freshly covered mass graves.

Guerrero is among six states in Mexico that the U.S. State Department advises Americans to completely avoid, citing crime and violence. 

“Armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero,” the State Department says in its travel advisory.

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