Monday, February 05, 2007

Mexican cops jailed in rape of San Antonio woman

Mariano Castillo:

The Piedras Negras Police Department remained on a tight leash Saturday after a Mexican police officer and cadet were arrested in the alleged rape of a 22-year-old San Antonio woman.

Piedras Negras police identified the accused as veteran officer Jonás Santiago Morales, 42, and police cadet Oscar Ramírez Vázquez, 20.

Both were suspended as the investigation into the Saturday morning incident continued, according to local news reports.

The officers deny the allegations.

Piedras Negras is across the border from Eagle Pass, about two hours south of San Antonio.

The details of the incident, as told by the accuser, paint the type of picture that rankles Mexican officials who are fighting an apparent endless battle against corruption.

Investigators at the Coahuila state attorney general's office didn't return repeated phone calls Saturday.

In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, the alleged victim said the officers repeatedly ignored her pleas to take her to her boyfriend's home — where she was staying — while they took her on a nightmarish pre-dawn drive across the city.

It's the policy of the Express-News not to name victims in sexual assaults.

The ordeal started just before 3 a.m. Saturday, the accuser said, after she and her boyfriend got into a fight.

Sitting on some steps less than a block away from the city's police station, she was calling friends in San Antonio when the pair of officers stopped and motioned her over, the accuser said.

"The whole time I wasn't really understanding them in Spanish and they weren't really understanding my English," she said.

Nonetheless, following the officers' instructions, the woman got in the police car, ostensibly to get a ride back to her boyfriend's home.

Instead, the officers dropped by Santiago's home, where he picked up a bottle of brandy that they later tried to force her to drink, the accuser said.

After driving around for more than an hour, both officers sexually assaulted her in a field, the woman said.

Fright set in early during the trip. "I was afraid for my life if I tried to run," the accuser said.

At about 5 a.m., the cops dropped her off where she had originally asked.

The incident was the third rape accusation made against the Piedras Negras Police Department in the past year, the newspaper Vanguardia reported.

Santiago was accused of rape last year in a case that was dropped because of lack of evidence, according to Vanguardia.

For similar reasons, a rape charge against another officer at the end of last year also was dropped, the paper said.

The news has put the border city's trust in its Police Department at risk.

In response, the city's mayor, Jesús Mario Flores, gave his police chief instructions to maintain "severe control" of all 160 police officers 24 hours a day, the Milenio newspaper reported.

"We've handed this over to the proper authorities," police chief Roberto Múzquiz said at a press conference in Piedras Negras Saturday.

Police in Mexican border city are investigated for allegedly raping Texas woman

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