BOGOTA – The death toll from violent anti-police brutality protests this week in Colombia has risen to 11 after a woman was run over by a bus, authorities said on Friday.
“We are deeply saddened today to announce the death of a woman who was run over by a hoodlum involved in the theft of a public-transport vehicle,” Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said while providing an update on Thursday night’s events.
The incident occurred in Suba, a neighborhood in northwestern Bogota.
Eyewitnesses said armed young men forced the driver and passengers out of the bus and then got behind the wheel and fled the scene, but they lost control of the vehicle a few streets away and struck a 40-year-old woman.
The woman, who was walking to her residence and was not taking part in the protests, was rushed to the hospital by police, but succumbed to her injuries shortly afterward.
A young eyewitness told local media that the bus thieves had taken advantage of the protests to rob people and loot stores.
That latest death occurred on the second night of protests against the police-involved killing of Javier Ordoñez, a 46-year-old attorney and father of two young children who perished at a nearby clinic early Wednesday after having been shocked repeatedly with a stun gun by two officers despite pleading for them to stop.
“Please stop, officer. I beg you,” the man can be heard saying on a minutes-long video that was taken by onlookers and widely viewed on social media. People standing nearby also pleaded with the police to show restraint.
Colombia’s National Police has suspended those two police as well as five other officers linked to the case, according to Holmes Trujillo, who said on Friday the move is aimed at preventing them from manipulating evidence and otherwise obstructing the investigation.
The defense minister said that to expedite the probes the two officers who were involved in the stun-gun incident – and now face abuse of authority and homicide charges – have been summoned to an initial court hearing.
The other five officers also are under investigation, although the head of the Defense Ministry – which oversees the National Police – did not provide further details.
Like they did on Wednesday night, the protesters once again vandalized and even torched National Police substations, known as immediate attention centers (CAIs). Those facilities were apparently targeted because the two officers in the incident leading to Ordoñez’s death had been assigned to a CAI in Bogota’s Villa Luz neighborhood.
Supermarkets and banks also were looted, although a day after 10 people died of gunshot wounds in Bogota and the nearby city of Soacha there were no reports of shooting deaths.
One of the most serious incidents on Thursday night occurred in Cajica, a municipality 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Bogota, where an unruly crowd looted the mayor’s office.
“This is not the way to protest. This is not the way to respond … They destroyed the (headquarters) of the municipal government, they destroyed the police station and they’re destroying commercial establishments,” Cajica Mayor Fabio Ramirez said.
Protests and acts of vandalism also occurred Thursday night in different Bogota neighborhoods and the cities of Cali, Medellin, Cucuta and Ibague.
The two nights of protest have left 209 civilians and 194 police officers injured, 60 police installations damaged and 91 buses and other vehicles destroyed, some of which were set on fire, Holmes Trujillo said.
“Ninety people have been arrested and 11 minors have been apprehended over the two days,” the minister added.
Separately, Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez once again leveled criticism against the police on Friday morning, blaming officers not only for the death of Ordoñez but also seven others who were shot during protests in the capital on Wednesday night.
“They killed Javier Ordoñez and fired indiscriminately at citizens,” she wrote on Twitter, adding that 68 people were injured and seven died at the hands of police on Wednesday and eight were shot and wounded on Thursday in Bogota.
Lopez, who is the highest police authority in Bogota, said officers had “disobeyed express and public instructions from the mayor’s office.”
“So who are they obeying? There’s an urgent need for justice, action and reform!” the mayor said.