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Investigation begins after woman dies during arrest by Tulum police

Tulum, Q.R. — An investigation into the death of a woman during her arrest Saturday in Tulum is underway, reports the State Attorney General. The investigation for police brutality was initiated after a woman from El Salvador was arrested on a public street. During her arrest, videos captured by witnesses suggest that pressure applied to the woman’s body by the arresting officer caused her death.

In a public address, Tulum mayor Victor Mas Tah says the four arresting officers, three men and one woman, have been removed from duty and are being investigated.

“Improper acts or working outside the law are not tolerated,” he said adding that “the corresponding authorities will carry out investigations, define responsibilities and do justice,” while also expressing his condolences and solidarity with the family of the woman who lost her life.

State Governor Carlos Joaquin, along with the Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE), have released statements saying an investigation into her death is underway. The FGE says that all four officers have already been interviewed.

The arrest of the woman, identified as permanent resident Victoria N, took place around 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Tumbenkah area of Tulum, with municipal police subduing a woman who was allegedly behaving violently. Her arrest was in response to a 911 citizen call who reported an impertinent person at the intersection of Faisán Street with La Selva Avenue.

During her detainment, images show one of the officers placing a knee on the woman’s back while she was on the ground, ignoring pleas that she was having difficulty breathing. Within a few moments, videos taken show the detained woman stopped moving. She was placed into a different patrol unit and taken for a medical evaluation where her death was confirmed.

In a statement from Tulum City Council, “the police officers involved will not have any service assignment nor will they be able to have contact with the public as long as the investigation is ongoing. In Tulum, there is zero tolerance against this type of act.”

On Sunday, a group of Tulum citizens held a protest regarding the death of the woman at the hands of municipal police. The protest ended with destruction and damage to the glass entrance door of the police building.

In a press release Monday morning, head of the FGE, Óscar Montes de Oca Rosales, said autopsy results show the excessive use of force by the arresting officer resulted in a fractured spine. “They concluded that a fracture was identified in the upper part of the spine, produced by the rupture of the first and second vertebrae, which caused the loss of life of the victim,” adding that the injuries are compatible and coincide with the submission maneuvers that were applied to the victim during the process of her arrest and before her death.

He explained that investigations determined that the police technique of corporal control applied and the level of force used was carried out in a disproportionate, immoderate way and with a high risk to life, since it was not in accordance with the resistance of the victim.

Óscar Montes de Oca Rosales said that the police officers violated the provisions of the National Law on the Use of Force, and that criminal action against the four municipal policemen, a woman and three men, are underway. In the next few hours, all four, he added, will be admitted to a state Retention Center.