January 11, 2012

More Honduran police crimes

Peligro: Policia, Honduras
[Image: Danger, Police in the area]

Back in November, I was keeping track of cases of criminal cops who made the news and other stories which indicate police collusion in crimes. I continued to make a note of links to articles, with a big gap around the holidays, so this lengthy update is by no means complete, and of course, does not consider that the police are able to successfully cover up many of the crimes of their compadres. One of the reasons that I'm tracking this is to show that bad cops apparently have no fear of the supposed purification and another is that I'd like to be able to compare these names (when given) with those released on the lists of fired police agents.

José Rubén Pozo López, one of the escaped police accused of the murder the two university students [in English] in October, voluntarily turned himself in to the National Human Rights Commissioner (non-governmental organization) in early December. The initial judicial hearing was unusually held in a military installation to protect the accused. He was ordered held in custody in an unnamed military facility for the charges of murder and abuse of authority. The charge of aggravated robbery was provisionally dismissed. Pozo López asked the judge to consider the fear he had in turning himself in, as evidenced by the fact that police patrols were circulating around the military facility that day in a seeming effort to intimidate him. Continuing as fugitives from justice are Carlos Gáleas Cruz, Wilfredo Figueroa Velásquez, and Arnulfo Padilla Rodríguez.

Mother of one of the victims, Julieta Castellanos, accused the Human Rights prosecutor Sandra Ponce of negligence for knowing for several days that Pozo López wanted to turn himself in and doing nothing to facilitate the process. Ponce denied the charge, but said that she had received a call from the Pozo's attorney and was waiting for another call from him.

La Tribuna revealed details of the case of the murder of the two university students. Police not only stole the victims' money and cell phones, but also a leather jacket and even the shoes of the victims. Previously, it was reported that one of the police agents used the victim's cell phone at the crime scene to call his girlfriend as he "had no minutes" on his own phone.

Police agent Luis Enrique Pineda Castillo, assigned to barrio Los Dolores, Tegucigalpa, along with two civilians, were charged with extortion, aggravated robbery, and carrying illegal weapons after being caught in the act of receiving money from the victim. All three were released by the court and ordered to present themselves voluntarily once per week until the case comes to trial. Pineda Castillo was ordered suspended from the police at the request of prosecutors.

Police agents Nery Saúl González and Jaime Adalid Soriano were charged with stealing a gun and other evidence. The gun was decommissioned from suspects but never reported to supervisors. The owner of the gun presented a denuncia of the theft. An unnamed police source said that many police steal guns and other evidence from suspects resulting in a lack of evidence for prosecution and the criminals go free.

Two drunken members of the Honduran air force, René Alfonso Romero Reyes and Neptalí Osmín Morales Nufio, were arrested for carrying three 9 mm guns and threatening the lives of others.

Ex-police agent Nelly Emilio Vásquez was found guilty of homicide in a San Pedro court for the 2010 murder of a prostitute who he had a dispute with while using her services. The sentence will be given in January.

Prosecutors charged Homicide police inspectors René Darío Sierra y Maynor Salomón Cáceres with rape and robbery of a police vehicle in which one of them tried to escape. Two young women were leaving a discotheque when they were chased by the two police inspectors. One of the women was allegedly raped and subject to other acts of lechery. Police initially refused to name the suspects, but names were later released by prosecutors. Salomón Cáceres is currently a fugitive from justice.

Police agent José Luis Alemán Pérez (23) was captured by DNSEI agents (Special Investigation) in the act of extorting L.200,000 from executives of a cooperativa. Alemán was in possession of two IDs, one in the name of José Luis Rodríguez Yánez, as well as his police badge, at the time he received the cash from the intended victims.

During the initial hearing of police agent Wilmer Alexander Zavala, judges ordered him to be held in prison pending trial for the murder of a 16-year-old in the capital. Zavala is accused of confronting two minors in the street, grabbing one by the neck and shooting him causing instant death. The other boy fled.

Ex sub-commissioner Jorge Alberto Barralaga, previously suspended [in English] for his role in the escape of four police agents accused of murder, has been accused of attempted murder by a citizen in Tocoa, Colon. Barralaga denies the charges.

Padre Marco Aurelio Lorenzo denounced that he was beaten and tortured on December 26 by police agents in Intibucá who stole L.11,500 from him. However, the police responded saying that their report showed that the priest had been in a car accident and was drunk, and that the police merely took him to the hospital. The spokesperson noted that the police were accompanied by "persons of prestige" at the time and speculated that maybe he had been robbed by some other uniformed persons prior to the police arriving. The priest's parish stands by him and demands action by the justice system [in English, also read the comments which add additional information].

The Salvadoran Transportation Association continues to denounce that truck drivers are intercepted by police up to 10 times during their deliveries of products in the south of Honduras and have to pay up to US $30 each time, for an estimated total of US $9,000 per day in bribes to Honduran police. As before, police promise a profound investigation and to take corrective measures.

In Comayaguela, a man supposedly caught in the act of extorting an impuesto de guerra (war tax) from a citizen was shot various times and killed by DNIC agents who said that when they told him to raise his hands, he fired on the investigators who shot back.

Police intervention in Tela, Honduras

Honduran police authorities intervened in Tela, Atlántida, and "suspended" 80 police agents, who have been sent to the Cobra unit for "investigation". No information was given as what sort of investigation will occur or when these police will resume duty in Tela. Currently naval personnel and Cobras from San Pedro Sula are performing patrols in the city. The only information given by the police spokesman was that police were not performing their duties in high crime, noted gang and narcotrafficking areas and that they will be retrained to determine whether or not they can resume their duties. Speaking of that, I can't recall ever hearing anything else about the 176 agents "suspended" in Tegucigalpa [in English]. Apparently the results of that retraining, and the 100 or so agents who refused to report for it, is one of many police secrets.

Criminals using police equipment

Two robbers were found to be in the possession of a police weapon when arrested.

Seven suspects were ordered held in custody for seven days by judges in Tegucigalpa after being captured in an operativo in which AK 47s, grenades, and three luxury vehicles, along with seven bulletproof police vests and three anti-gas masks were seized. Prosecutors have this seven days to present enough evidence to have them held in custody until the trial.

Related news

Latest statistics given by the police show that the DNIC (Criminal Investigation) that 84% of the criminal cases go uninvestigated but they expect that will improve with the donation of technological equipment and better collection of evidence.

In an interview with a Tegucigalpa morgue employee, who asked to remain unnamed because of fear of retaliation, he stated that in 15 years, he has never seen such horrible murders as he sees now. He added that initially he didn't believe family members' claims that police were responsible for the deaths, but after seeing so many bodies with the same characteristics, he began to doubt. He said that they often see bodies that have been tortured, dismembered, and burned as well as with faces disfigured with numerous gunshots to prevent identification. He pointed to one case in which four young men who according to family members were captured by a Belén police patrol and parts of their dismembered bodies were found the next day. He stated that it is very strange that the Tegucigalpa morgue is seeing fewer homicides since the death of the two university students [in English], because during other similar operativos, the numbers of murders did not decrease. However, after this case, the existing Belén and La Granja police were all removed from duty in those areas.

Diario Tiempo reports that an unnamed human rights advocate states that since the beginning of 2010, dozens of young men have been captured in the middle of the night and later appeared tortured and executed with their hands tied behind their backs, often in the areas covered by La Granga and Belén police stations, as well as in Comayaguela. Some of the family members claim that these young men were abducted by eight hooded, heavily armed men dressed as police and wearing bullet-proof vests. They say that it is a lie that police announce the deaths were a result of ajuste de cuentas (revenge killings) between gangs.

Related articles:

Nov. 26, From the 'too odd to believed' criminal cops files
Nov. 25, Continuing police crime
Nov. 20, Honduras police crime and corruption continues
Nov. 11, Police crime and corruption

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