Brad Will – Murdered with impunity by Mexican Government paramilitaries 7 years ago.
The US journalist was covering the teachers’ strike and popular movement in Oaxaca, Mexico, which the Mexican government was violently attempting to crush.
The Case of a Murdered US journalist
On June 14, 2006 the PRI Governor of Oaxaca, Ulyses Ruiz Ortiz, authorized a pre-dawn violent attack by paramilitary police officers on a peaceful protest camp of striking-teachers. A widespread social movement of thousands of inhabitants of Oaxaca, APPO, was launched in response, its ranks swelling because of the notoriety of Governor Ruiz’s corruption and the popular recognition of his having taken the Governorship through fraudulent elections.
At a street demonstration on October 27, 2006, U.S. Indymedia video journalist Brad Will was shot and killed while filming a confrontation between APPO activists and paramilitary forces. His film footage that day showed local police, municipal officials and paramilitaries shooting directly at demonstrators.
Immediately following Brad Will’s murder an autopsy was conducted, but no real police investigation, no serious gathering of evidence or comprehensive witness statements from those at the scene, no attempt to protect the area for later investigation was ordered by the Mexican government officials in charge. Within days of Brad Will’s murder, the Oaxaca Attorney General, Lizbet Cana, had issued the first offical statements promoting a cover-up theory of Brad Will’s murder. Cana accused APPO activists standing near Brad of shooting him.
As a result of widespread distribution of Brad’s video tape of his final moments, as well as demonstrations at Mexican Embassies worldwide, two municipal government officials (among the five in the picture below) were detained. Shortly thereafter, they were released “for lack of evidence.”
These paramilitaries are well known to Mexican authorities and are seen in photos shooting towards Will and the demonstrators. The paramilitaries are: Juan Carlo Soriano, municipal police officer; Manuel Aguilar, council personnel chief; Able Santiago Zarate; and Pedro Carmona, mayor of Felipe Carrillo Puerto de Santa Lucia del Camino.
Later, multiple witnesses bravely came forward and testified about the paramilitaries firing into the group of demonstrators at the time that Brad Will was shot. These same witnesses – some of whom helped Will when he was shot – were hounded by the local and federal Mexican government, suggesting their involvement in the murder.
Mexico’s own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) declared that Attorney General Lizbet Cana’s theory absurd. At the request of Brad Will’s family and lawyer, the Nobel Prize-winning group of forensic experts, Physicians for Human Rights, reviewed the forensic evidence and determined that Will was shot from long-range, effectively exposing fundamental flaws in the Mexican State and Federal Attorney General’s cover-up theory that he was shot at close range by a protester.
Two years later, in October 2008, Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, a 35-year-old baker, father of three and a local activist, was arrested and charged with Brad Will’s murder. There was no evidence against Moreno. Numerous witnesses testified to authorities regarding Will’s murder and not one mentioned him, much less singled him out as the gunman. As of January 2010, Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno had been incarcerated for over a year, falsely accused of Will’s death . He was released under instructions by a Federal judge in Mexico on February 18, 2010. Here is an inspiring account of the campaign to free him and what remains to be achieved.
With the election of Gabino Cué Monteagudo on July 4, 2010 and his taking office in December of that year, promises were made to pursue justice and obtain accountability for Brad Will’s murder.
About a year and a half later and five and a half years after Brad Will was shot in broad daylight in front of witnesses, Lenin Osorio Ortega, a person living in the neighborhood, supposedly working alone, was arrested for the 2006 murder, though it is unclear whether he was in fact the murderer.
Since then, Lenin Ortega has changed defense lawyers a number of times. And no further arrests have been made, despite the lack of accountability for multiple apparently similar murders of innocents and despite the fact that a number of suspects were witnessed shooting at demonstrators (as evident from the picture taken at the time and posted above.)
The serious irregularities in the Mexican government’s response to Brad Will’s murder have yet to be thoroughly investigated by the government.