Police Events Surrounding Double Murder of Students

Yesterday, a team of biologists and technicians from the DNIC performed visual inspections at the crime scene where on Saturday, October 22, 2011, the bodies of Rafael Castellanos (son of the Director of the UNAH, Julieta Castellanos), and his friend, Carlos Pineda were found. The dead bodies had been located on the edge of a cliff, at kilometer 12 on the turnoff to the village of Villa Real, on the main road heading south of Tegucigalpa. Researchers were looking for other items to add to the scientific evidence.

Evidence from that inspection led to police officers assigned to the Metropolitan Police Headquarters in Tegucigalpa, being considered suspects in the case. Those officers were identified by authorities as Carlos Galeas, who holds the rank of sergeant, and officers Wilfredo Figueroa, Arnulfo Padilla, and Rubén Pozo.

All four were brought into custody at the Metropolitan Police Headquarters Station No. 1, and subsequently freed, pending the issuance of arrest warrants.

That action has brought outrage from every citizen in every region of Honduras; especially since those officers are now missing.

The four police officers, believed responsible for the deaths of the two young men, were given liberty, even though there was strong suspicion against them. They were not considered fugitives until they did not show up for work yesterday. The suspected officers were asked to present themselves mid-day yesterday at the Metropolitan Police Station No. 1 in Tegucigalpa. When they did not show, authorities considered them deserters.

Marco Tulio Palma, the Director of Law for the national police, explained that the officers’ permission for liberty was not denied because there was not enough evidence to charge them and issue a capture order, at the time that they were detained. Jorge Varralaga, chief of the metro police, was the one who signed their permission for leave. When asked why he did not take preventive measures to avoid the possibility that the policemen went missing, the director responded, “I hoped that they would present themselves at the Metro Station No. 1, or that they would present themselves directly to the Tribunal in order to resolve the case if they considered they were innocent.”

It has been theorized that this was a strategy used by the Department of the Secretary of Security, because they did not have enough proof required by the District Attorney to issue a capture order. It is believed the suspected officers were advised (in a way to instill fear) that they go on liberty during the weeekend, and seek private legal representation, and not return to Metro Station No .1, but have their private lawyer present to the Tribunal. In this plan, the police would then be aggrevating the situation, as they would be incriminating themselves by not returning to Metro Station No. 1, and that would add more strength to the charges issued against them by the District Attorney. At that time, the only proof the Department of the Secretary of Security had against the officers, were videos from businesses in the area, where supposedly, it is seen that a patrol vehicle is in pursuit of the Toyota of the murdered young men.

Due to the weakness of the evidence, the police delayed their report to the District Attorney’s office in order for them to have enough evidence to issue a capture order. The Director of Law for the police, said that although the District Attorney did not have enough evidence, “To us, they did. We knew that the four policemen identified were directly responsible for this crime.”

Allegedly, the ballistics investigations, and any evidence from the impounded patrol car, were not enough to find them guilty. The legal director said, “I thought the nature of the crime, and how it was committed shows a bad procedure. An abuse of authority from every point of view. And, most of all, because it involves an important figure, the Director of the National University, I thought that our State’s leadership, through its institutions, should take some action to prevent this from happening.”

When asked about the actions of Commissioner Varralaga, who gave permission to the police officers to leave, the Director of Police said, “If there is responsiblity by elements of this institution, we will take steps to establish what kind of charges they should face, and to that extent, we will be very energetic about pursuing this.”

The Minister of Security, Pompeyo Bonilla, said at a news conference that he has “ordered an investigation into the matter and will announce the results, to make it very clear we are not protecting anyone. What happened was bad police procedure within the institution.”

Commissioner José Ramírez, Inspector General of the police, said that legal counsel of the police will work to find the deserters when they have a warrant. He clarified that they cannot order a migration alert so the suspected officers don’t leave the country, without a court order.

Luis Rubí of the Prosecutors office, accused the police of having been slow with this case, “Therefore, we had to intervene; and today we present the orders of capture for this case”.

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