December 5, 2013
A ‘prank’ turns violent in Saavedra
Protesters light patrol cars on fire after off-duty police officer shoots youth in the head
What began as a supposed “prank” by an off-duty police officer ended with a 29-year-old shot in the head, the suspected involvement of officers from two police forces and riots by outraged citizens, who set several police cars on fire.
Eric Milton Ponce appears to have been at the wrong place, at the wrong time, when he crossed paths with an off-duty Buenos Aires province police officer on Sunday in the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Saavedra.
Sergeant David Cesar Cabaleiro turned himself in yesterday morning while his brother, who works for the Metropolitan police of Buenos Aires City, was accused of hiding his sibling and also turned himself in for questioning.
Ponce’s friends say it all began with “a prank,” a joke between like-minded buddies they made while leaning over a car in Alberti park in Northern Buenos Aires City — jokingly asking the car owner to pay them 20 pesos to “take care” of the vehicle.
Suddenly, some people in civilian clothes came out from a party that was going on across the street and had an argument with the youngsters.
“They walked away but later came back with a bigger group of people,” explained Emiliano Meltini, Ponce’s lawyer. “There was physical aggression against Milton and then, without any words and without motive whatsoever, this person (Cabaleiro) pulls out a gun, aims at Milton’s head and pulled the trigger.”
Ponce fell to the ground and was helped by his friends, who put him in the car and drove him to the Pirovano hospital in the nearby Villa Urquiza neighbourhood.
One of Ponce’s friends who identified himself as Mariano told news channel C5N that the person who shot the 29-year old is not the same person who started the argument — that is, the car owner.
The aggressor allegedly never identified himself as a police officer.
Security officers who arrived at the scene interrogated “people within the close circle of the aggressors” and walked away after a few minutes, according to Ponce’s lawyer.
Security Secretary Sergio Berni said Cabaleiro had in effect “put a gun on (Ponce’s) head.”
“A low level of inertia allowed the projectile to not penetrate the cranial cavity,” Berni detailed yesterday.
CLASHES AT POLICE STATION
Friends and relatives of the victim told police officers that the aggressor was still at the scene of the crime when security forces arrived and did nothing to stop him. But police officials dismissed the accusation as nonsense.
Minutes later, a group of protesters appeared in front of police station No. 49 and began throwing rocks at it. Several police cars were affected and one of the vehicles was set on fire by the protesters.
The police arrested two men but they were later released, according to the state-run news agency Télam.
OFFICER turned HIMSELF IN
Meanwhile, Cabaleiro — who is part of the Buenos Aires province police led by Security Minister Alejandro Granados — handed himself in to the courts yesterday morning, while his brother, a Metropolitan police officer who was accused of hiding the alleged crime, did the same thing before the Metropolitan police’s Internal Affairs unit.
Cabaleiro was “separated” from the force and an “administrative investigation” is now taking place, Viviana Arcidiácono, the general auditor of the Buenos Aires province Security Minister told private news agency DyN.
As the Herald went to press, Ponce was still hospitalized in a drug-induced coma in the intensive care unit of the Pirovano hospital.
Herald with DyN, Télam