Colombia minister issues apology, seeks to restore calm after deadly protests
By Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's defense minister apologized on Friday on behalf of the police for the death of a man in custody that has sparked two nights of protests in capital Bogota and satellite city Soacha, leaving 13 dead and hundreds injured. Demonstrators have taken to the streets for consecutive nights to protest the death on Wednesday of Javier Ordonez, 46.
By Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's defense minister apologized on Friday on behalf of the police for the death of a man in custody that has sparked two nights of protests in capital Bogota and satellite city Soacha, leaving 13 dead and hundreds injured.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets for consecutive nights to protest the death on Wednesday of Javier Ordonez, 46. A widely-shared video filmed by Ordonez's friend showed the father of two being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police. He died later in a hospital.
"The national police apologize for any violation of the law or ignorance of regulations by any members of the institution," Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in a video message. Colombia's police force are overseen by the defense ministry.
The video of Ordonez shows him pinned to the ground by police officers and subjected to successive electric shocks early on Wednesday as he begs, "please, no more."
Police said Ordonez was found drinking alcohol in the street with friends in violation of coronavirus distancing rules. He was taken to a police station in western Bogota which has become a focal point of protests, and later died in hospital.
Two police officers implicated in Ordonez's death face charges of abusing authority and homicide. They have already been suspended and will be fired from the force.
A further five officers have been suspended in connection with Ordonez's death, Trujillo said.
Seven people aged between 17 and 27 years old died after being shot in Bogota during protests on Wednesday, according to the mayor's office, while the national government says three were killed the same night in Soacha.
Family members of some of the Bogota victims told local media their loved ones had not been participating in the protests.
Three further people died in connection with the protests on Thursday night, including a woman who was hit by a stolen public bus, officials said.
Hundreds of civilians have been injured during clashes between protesters and the police, with 73 wounded by gunshots in Bogota, according to local authorities. Just under 200 police officers have also been injured, according to the national government.
Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez will meet with President Ivan Duque and the inspector general - charged with investigating public officials - later on Friday, she said in a Twitter post.
At least 60 police stations have been affected by vandalism, the government said, as well as dozens of public transport vehicles.
Vandalism and attacks on infrastructure were due to "direct and systematic" actions with clear objectives, Trujillo said.
Ordonez's death has fueled renewed outrage against the police, who were widely criticized last year after a teenage protester was fatally injured by a riot squad projectile.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and David Gregorio)
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