Jury to deliberate on police chase that killed three teens and man

In the 2019 'Monte Massacre', officers pursued and shot at a moving car, causing a fatal crash

San Miguel del Monte. Source: Wikimedia commons

Today, a jury will hear closing arguments in the Masacre de Monte (“Monte Massacre”) oral trial, wherein four Buenos Aires province police officers stand accused of pursuing and killing teenagers in a car chase in the town of San Miguel del Monte.

The “Monte Massacre” happened in the early hours of May 20, 2019, when local police officers pursued a Fiat 147 along Route 3. There were four teenagers in the car — Rocío Quagliarello (13), Camila López (13), Danilo Sansone (13), and Gonzalo Domínguez (14). The car was being driven by 22-year-old Aníbal Suárez.

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 and four of the five occupants died. Only 13-year-old Quagliarello survived after spending 24 days in hospital. On Friday, the court watched a video of her testifying just after the events.

“The police were following us but I don’t know why. Then I remember Gonzalo [Domínguez] grabbed his knee and said ‘It burns, it burns,’ and then I don’t remember anymore,” she said through tears.

An expert told the court that Quagliarello, now 17, will not testify in the trial after evaluating her mental and physical state.

The oral trial

The oral trial began on May 8 with jury selection. They will have to define whether or not the four police officers are guilty of “homicide aggravated on the grounds of abuse of their role as members of the police force and the use of firearms.”

A witness who was close to the scene told the court last week that the officers — Leandro Ecilape, Mariano Ibáñez, Manuel Monreal, and former captain Rubén Alberto García — continued shooting after the car had crashed.

“After the loud roar of the crash, I saw the driver of the police car get out in the firing position with a gun in his hand. I lose sight of him and hear a firearm go off,” said Ignacio Cattaneo, a San Miguel del Monte local. He said that the four agents had the “intent to finish it off.”

The truck driver whose vehicle was hit by the victims, Héctor Mensi, also testified to continuing shots after the crash, stating that he heard four before and two after. 

Yesterday, two of the police officers — Manuel Monreal and Mariano Ibáñez — claimed in their testimony that the victims had tried to run them over. Ibañez denied having shot at the vehicle, while Monreal said he hadn’t meant to hurt anyone.

“The Fiat 147, ignoring my alert, wants to kill me. I tried to move back and I shoot twice at the wheels. I never meant to hurt anyone and I’m sorry about what happened,” said Monreal. 

However, ballistics expert Lucas Basanta confirmed that bullets found at the scene could be traced to two of the accused. He focused particularly on the bullet found in Domínguez’s leg, which came from Monreal’s gun, but the others were fired from García’s weapon.

This directly contradicts not only Monreal’s testimony but the officers’ general defense — their lawyer, Guillermo Baqué, has contended that they fired at the ground, not the vehicle they were chasing.

At the hearing, Domínguez’s mother Susana Ríos asked to leave the room when Basanta began giving details about the shot that hurt her son.

Today the court will hear allegations submitted by the parties, with arguments from the prosecution and the defense, after which the jury will deliberate.

— with information from Télam


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