A jury has found two policemen guilty of aggravated homicide and their two colleagues guilty of attempted aggravated homicide for the 2019 ‘Monte Massacre’, when they chased and shot at a car, causing a crash that killed three teenage passengers and the adult driver in the Buenos Aires province town of San Miguel del Monte.
Last night, after more than eight hours of jury deliberation, police officers Rubén García and Leonardo Ecilapé were unanimously found guilty of homicide, aggravated on the grounds of abuse of their role as members of the police and the use of firearms, for the deaths of Danilo Sansone (13), Camila López (13), Gonzalo Domínguez (14) and Aníbal Suárez (22), for which they will be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Meanwhile, by a majority of 10 out of 12 jury members, the police officers Manuel Monreal and Mariano Ibáñez were found guilty of the crime of attempted murder, aggravated on the grounds of abuse of their role as members of the police force and the use of firearms, which carries a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison.
In addition, all four officers, who were serving in the Buenos Aires provincial police at the time, were found guilty of the attempted murder, aggravated by their status as members of a security force, of Rocío Quagliarello, the only survivor, who was 13 at the time of the crime.
The reading of the verdict, which was broadcast live on the YouTube channel of the Buenos Aires Supreme Court of Justice, began last night at 9p.m. in the La Plata court.
The courtroom was packed with dozens of the victims’ relatives, who listened with tears in their eyes and welcomed the guilty verdicts with hugs and shouts. Quagliarello, the survivor, also attended.
Outside, at the door of the courthouse located on 8th Street, in central La Plata, more than a hundred people held a vigil with drums and signs saying “The police killed the kids” and “San Miguel del Monte demands justice”. They embraced each other and shouted with emotion at the verdict.
The “Monte Massacre” happened in the early hours of May 20, 2019, when the officers pursued a Fiat 147 along Route 3. Suárez was driving and López, Sansone, Domínguez and Quagliarello were passengers.
They were listening to music when the police gave chase and, municipal security camera footage shows, started shooting at them. One officer can be seen hanging out of the side passenger’s window firing his weapon and one of the teenagers, Domínguez, was shot in the leg.
As a result, the car crashed into a truck, killing all except Quagliarello, who survived after spending 24 days in hospital. On Friday, the court watched a video of her, now 17, testifying after the events.
Susana Ríos, mother of Gonzalo Domínguez, told Télam: “I am very proud of the jury. I had a lot of faith, I believed in justice.”
Next to her, and shouting in the middle of the courtroom, Hugo Suárez, uncle of Aníbal Suárez, said that his nephew “was murdered by the police”.
Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Sansone, Danilo’s father, tearfully embraced one of his sons as he told him: “We did everything, son, your mother needs you”.
During yesterday’s closing arguments, prosecutor Mariano Sibuet had asked the jury to consider Ecilapé, Monreal, Ibáñez and García “guilty”, pointing out that “they showed contempt for the lives of the victims” and that “each of them made an essential contribution” to the fatal outcome.
The lawyers representing the families of the victims agreed that what happened on the night of 20 May 2019 was a “brutal homicide” and an “unjustified killing”.
The officers’ defense lawyers maintained their innocence, blaming the events on the driver, Suárez, and argued that the officers acted “in the line of duty”.
After the pleas, the police officers were given the opportunity to say their final words. They apologized to the families of Danilo, Camila, Aníbal and Gonzalo and gave them their “deepest condolences”, adding that they are not murderers.
Judge Carolina Crispiani from the Oral Criminal Court 4 (TOC) of La Plata, indicated that she will announce the officers’ final sentences on June 2, and the grounds for the sentence will be published a week later.