MEXICO – A Mexican judge ordered 12 federal police officers held for 40 days on Monday as prosecutors mull charges against them for shooting at a US embassy car and wounding two US government employees.
The officers are being treated as suspects over Friday’s incident, when a sport-utility vehicle with diplomatic plates was chased by four cars south of Mexico City and hit by a hail of bullets.
“We will continue to deepen the investigation,” Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibanez told reporters. “Right now we have an abuse of power.”
“We are cooperating with all national and international authorities that we must collaborate with to clarify the events,” Morales added.
She did not indicate what other charges the officers could face apart from abuse of power over the shooting, which the US embassy has described as an ambush. The judge must decide the degree of responsibility of each suspect.
“No crime and no investigative leads are being ruled out at the moment,” she said. “This is why we asked for provisional detention, so we have the time we need to carry out an exhaustive investigation.”
The officers will be transferred from the attorney general’s regional office in Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morelos, to a provisional detention center in Mexico City.
Relatives of the officers protested outside the federal prosecutor’s office in Cuernavaca, holding signs saying “Deprived of their freedom for doing their jobs” and “Mr. President, we ask for your support and justice.”
The Mexican navy and public security ministry say the officers were hunting for criminals south of the capital when they shot at the diplomatic car. A Mexican navy captain traveling with the US employees was slightly injured.
The US government employees and the Mexican navy captain were heading to a military facility when a carload of gunmen chased and fired at them on a dirt road, the navy and public security ministry said in a statement.
When the US vehicle veered back onto a highway, three more cars joined the chase and shot at the SUV, which was riddled with bullets near Tres Marias, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital.
The US embassy has not identified the two wounded employees or the nature of their work in Mexico, which is in the throes of a drug war that has left some 50,000 people dead since 2006.
Mexico’s ombudsman, Raul Plascencia, said the shooting was an “extremely serious mistake by the officers, which could be an orchestrated action.”
“There is no justification for such an excessive use of force,” the head of the National Human Rights Commission told a news conference.