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Pursuing Justice for Sanmiguelense Leonardo Reyes

Madre de Leonardo, Remedios Cayente durante protesta en el MP

Leonardo Reyes, photo from Facebook

Leonardo's profile photo on Facebook

Ornelas and Padierna Attorneys

By Jesús Aguado

Annually, around the end of November, thousands of Mexican migrants return to their homes to spend the Christmas holidays with their families. Leonardo Reyes Cayente, a 23-year-old from the community of Corralejo de Abajo, was no different: he arrived home on December 9 from Texas.

On December 13, state police officers shot him to death. This fact is not in dispute. However, just about everything else about the case is.

The State Secretariat’s ruling that police officers shot Reyes Cayente in self-defense was not satisfactory to his family, and they have sought help from the Governor of Indigenous Towns in Guanajuato—Mauricio Mata Soria—as well as from Jorge Navarrete Olalde, Representative of Human Rights for Guanajuato Indigenous Migrants. Reyes Cayente’s family believes police killed their son without justification.

His family’s version

Early in the morning of December 13 it was reported that state police officers had killed a man on the road to San Damián, adjacent to the road to Corralejo de Abajo. That man, reported to be in a Ford Expedition SUV with Texas plates, was Leonardo Reyes, a construction worker who had migrated to Dallas, Texas. He had come to San Miguel with his parents to spend time with relatives here.

On the early morning of December 13, Remedios Cayente, Leonardo Reyes Cayente’s mother, says he left the house to find better cellular reception for his phone so he could call his girlfriend in Dallas. “He did not come back,” she said. “The police officers killed him.”

Reyes Cayente’s relatives said in several interviews that when they heard the gunshots in the middle of the night, they ran to the crime scene and hid in the weeds, from where they heard Leonardo coughing. “He was still alive, and the police did not call an ambulance. They left him to die there with no help,” said Remedios Cayente.

Hidden in the weeds, family members say they approached the scene close enough to see that the officers were manipulating the crime scene to make Leonardo look culpable for his own death. They allege that his car was moved from its original location and that they heard officers saying that they needed to shoot at their own patrol car again and leave gunpowder on Reyes Cayente’s hands.

Later, the family alleges, the police left guns at the scene that did not belong to Leonardo.

An act of self-defense?

On December 13, the State Secretariat published a press release with an official account of the incident, stating that “after a confrontation and pursuit of three armed men, state police officers killed the driver and confiscated two firearms and a vehicle.”

The account in this document says that a black vehicle with Texas plates containing three men was parked on the side of the road from San Miguel to Guanajuato. The document goes on to say that when the officers approached the vehicle, they were attacked with firearms, and fired back at their assailants. The press release said that the state police “acted, fulfilling national and international protocols on the use of public force when faced with a situation that put their lives at risk.”

The other two people that were allegedly with Reyes Cayente, said the document, fled into the darkness and eluded police.

Seeking justice

In a meeting with local media, indigenous leader Mata Soria said that they will request an intervention from federal authorities to get justice for Reyes Cayente’s family and clear his name.

“We want justice and an objective investigation. The killers ought to be summoned to give testimony, but the Ministerio Público (District Attorney’s Office) cannot and should not be involved since the police officers belong to that state office. [Reyes Cayente] arrived in San Miguel on December 9. He could not have become a criminal in just four days. They confused him with someone else and later manipulated the scene to make him seem culpable. He just wanted cell phone reception. This crime is not possible. We demand justice. It is a homicide with intent. He did not use firearms and was a good citizen,” said Soria. “What security is provided to people? They come to visit and are murdered by police officers.”

Representative of Guanajuato Migrants in Texas Jorge Navarrete Olalde said that the family has requested his support. Since Reyes Cayente was also a naturalized American citizen, they will seek help from the American embassy as well, to seek punishment of those involved in this killing.

“The authorities here always look for us [migrants] when they want to work as a team in public works to benefit the community, but now is the moment to work as a team. We have rights. We come here because we have our homes here. We pay taxes for our safety, and what for? To kill our people? We want justice,” said Navarrete.

Relatives threatened

Reyes Cayente’s sister-in-law, who has testified several times at the Ministerio Público, told Atención that Ministerio officials have threatened her, that they do not want her to look them in the eye.

“I already told you that if you lie you will go to jail,” she alleges the official interrogating her told her. “I do not like the way you are looking at me, I am going to send you to jail, and your brother-in-law, if he were alive, would go to jail too.”

When she allegedly asked the Ministerio official, “And what about those who killed him?” she says the official told her, “That will be a topic for later.”

A demonstration to demand transparency

On December 21, approximately 50 people demonstrated outside the Ministerio Público, demanding justice for Reyes Cayente. The Ornelas-Padierna law firm, based in Dolores Hidalgo, is representing the family. It recently denounced the lack of transparency in the entire case, including by the District Attorney’s office.

Ornelas-Padierna attorneys have since had a private meeting with District Attorney Armando Amaro,  who promised the lawyers total access to the documents pertaining to the case.

A tangential case?

According to information obtained by Atención, Reyes Cayente’s cousin Leonel had a run-in with the state police force, in 2011. At that time, when he had just returned from the United States, he entered a convenience store in the town of Cruz del Palmar, where he was visiting. Authorities made a report that a person there was paying with fake bills, but sources assure us that this person was not Leonel.

When the police officers arrived at the place, they ordered Leonel’s vehicle to stop but since it did not stop, the officers shot at it. Leonel got shot in the thorax, but he had a firearm and shot back at police officers, killing a commander. After recovering, Leonel spent several years in prison, until he was released two years ago.

When we asked Remedios Cayente if her family had previous problems with the police force, she replied, “Not directly.”

 

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