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Argentina police officers jailed for life for racial killing

July 12, 2023

Three policemen were found to be guilty of the death of 17-year-old Lucas Gonzalez, who was shot in 2021 while returning from a football practice in Buenos Aires.

A protester holding a placard that reads "we are seeking justice for Lucas" in Spanish, during a demonstration in Argentina. Archive image, November 21, 2021.
Lucas Gonzalez's killing sparked widespread protests in Argentina in 2021Image: Alejo Manuel Avila/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

A court in Argentina on Tuesday sentenced three police officers to life imprisonment for the racially motivated killing of Lucas González, a teenager, in November 2021.

Of the eleven officers who were accused of tampering with evidence, the court found six of them guilty of covering up the crime and sentenced them to prison for four to eight years.

The court acquitted the other five officers, in a case which became emblematic of institutional violence in Argentina.

"It is a historic sentence for Argentina, so that there may never be cases like Lucas Gonzalez again," the plaintiffs' lawyer Gregorio Dalbon said. "We have never had convictions for institutional violence for racial hatred before."

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What was the case?

The court convicted police officers for the killing of 17-year-old Lucas González, a youth player for the Barracas Central club.

González was attacked by the officers in Buenos Aires when returning from a training session along with three of his friends in a car. 

When police approached in an unmarked car, the youths sped away believing it was driven by criminals.

Their car was shot at by the police officers who have now been convicted of "aggravated homicide with malice and racial hatred," and for an attempt to kill Gonzalez's three friends who were with him in the car.

The gunshots hit Gonzalez twice in the head. He was taken to a hospital but died hours later.

Police had claimed there had been a confrontation with the youths and it was found during the trial that police had planted a toy gun in their car and tried to argue that was the reason for opening fire.

Investigations also pointed to damage to Lucas' body, such as a cigarette burn, inflicted after he was shot but before his death. The teenager's father had alluded to this during the trial. 

"They stigmatized them because they were 'morochos' [brown-skinned], because they came from a deprived neighborhood, but they went out to train. They saw them, they waited for them, they tortured them, they burned his body with cigarettes," Lucas's father, Hector Gonzalez, had said before the verdict.

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mf/msh (EFE, AFP)