Police officer who killed a man stealing from a supermarket is absolved

The judges were divided in opinion over the sentence, but Patricia Bullrich heralded the decision

Photo courtesy of Twitter @Diana_Ac0sta

A police officer who killed a man who was trying to rob a Chinese supermarket in Parque Centenario was absolved of any responsibility, a decision that was heralded by Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich.

Carla Céspedes, 24, was in trial on Friday accused of “aggravated homicide in excess of fulfilling official duties,” reported Clarin, but was absolved despite a divided opinion between the judges. Judges Miguel Ángel Caminos and Hugo Cataldi both decided to absolve Céspedes of responsibility as she was acting in legitimate defence, overruling Beatriz Bistué de Soler, who disagreed.

On December 22, 2016, Héctor Walter Corroncini (34) and Ariel Martín Santos (42) entered a Chinese supermarket before stealing money from the cash register. Céspedes was in the supermarket and followed the two men out of the establishment as they attempted to escape. Corroncini managed to get away, but as Santos attempted to get onto a motorbike, Céspedes shot him three times. Santos died at the scene.

Controversy surrounded the case as Santos was supposedly unarmed, and one of Céspedes’ last shots (the scene was caught on security cameras) hit Santos in the back whilst he was turned away.  

According to Pagina 12, the prosecutor highlighted the fact that it was always wrong to use lethal force against an individual who is trying to escape and presents no threat to the life of the police officer. However, Clarin affirmed that the Ministry of the Security of the Nation explained that as the two men were leaving the supermarket, one of them shouted “kill her, kill her, kill that bitch!”

It was at that point that Céspedes used her gun to defend herself and protect not only her own life but also that of the people in the area,” the Ministry continued. “One of the shots ended the life of one of the criminals, while the other managed to escape, but was detained a few days later.”

Corroncini was also sentenced at the same trial to three years for robbery. He has already spent six years in prison for the same crimes.

On her way into the trial, Céspedes told media outlets that she believes she was in the right.

“I acted in the right way, I don’t understand why I am here,” she said. “I just hope that this ends so that I can carry on with my duties.”

Santos’ family were disappointed by the trial and was hoping that the police officer would receive a life sentence. Clarin reported that his mother insulted Céspedes as she went into the trial.

“He meant nothing to you,” she said, “you killed him like a dog.”

Céspedes was invited to Minister of Security Bullrich’s office on Monday.

“We are very much in agreement with the judicial resolutions and convinced that this sets the base for a new paradigm with respect to police action – those who act within the framework of the law will be defended,” she said to Clarin. “We have followed these cases from the very first day, because we are committed to protecting those who protect us.”

The role of a police officer in Argentina is rife with danger, and various federal officials  have been killed in the line of duty, the most recent being Leonardo Sarmiento, who was shot by a group of youths in the area of Avellaneda. Lourdes Espindola, 25, was also killed by thieves in Buenos Aires in July, and her death catalysed renewed calls for better police protection in the city.

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