San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Four Cops Accused in Death of 15-Year-Old Boy

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office is pressing charges against four police officers for their involvement last week in the shooting of a 15-year-old boy – an incident that triggered violent protests in La Paz Centro, in the northern department of León, where dozens of residents burned and looted the local police station in retaliation.

Luis Angel Vargas was shot in the back by police Sept. 14 as he arrived at his father’s house after passing through a police barricade on his bicycle and failed to heed instructions to stop.

During his funeral the next day, a vigilante group of rioters – many reportedly drunk and with previous criminal records – attacked and looted the police station, destroying the facility and burning the criminal records as police fled to avoid being lynched.

According to the accusation filed against the officers last week by state prosecutors, police officer Nedar Hernández reportedly told fellow officer Dennis Cano and two other cops on patrol to pursue and detain Vargas after the boy sped through a roadblock on his bicycle and didn’t heed Hernández’s warning to stop.

The accusation says the three officers followed Vargas to his father’s house in a patrol vehicle.

At the house, Cano and officer Norbin Sevilla reportedly entered without a warrant, as Cano allegedly fired a warning shot in the air and a struggle ensued with Vargas, ending with him getting shot in the back, puncturing a lung.

The three police brought Vargas to the La Paz Centro clinic, and he later died after being transported by ambulance to a hospital in Leon.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office is accusing Cano of murder, while Sevilla, Hernández and patrol car driver Juan Briones are being accused of entering Vargas’ fathers’ house without a warrant and abuse of authority.

The day after the La Paz Centro riots, another 15-year-old boy, Roberto Robleto, died from a bullet wound after he was allegedly shot by a police officer who was responding to a complaint of gang activity in a Managua neighborhood, according to his family members.

“The prosecutor’s office has yet to receive a complaint in that case,” said state prosecutor spokeswoman Tania Garcia.

Police Chief Aminta Granera visited the families of the victims last week and promised a full investigation into both incidents.

–Blake Schmidt


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