The video circulating on social media showed a man pinned to the ground by Colombian police officers, who shocked him repeatedly with a stun gun for more than two minutes. “Please, no more,” he begged.
The man, Javier Ordóñez, a father of two, died shortly afterward in police custody. Within 24 hours, thousands of Colombians had taken to the streets of the capital, Bogotá, in protests against police violence that began late Wednesday and continued into Thursday.
Cars and police stations were set on fire. At least seven more people were killed, and 175 people were injured, according to the city health department, including 66 with bullet injuries.
All of the people killed in the protests were young, between the ages of 17 and 27. Police said the deaths were under investigation and declined to say whether officers were involved.
The city’s mayor, Claudia López, called the protest deaths “a massacre of our young people.”
The protests follow months of pandemic-related lockdowns in a country of about 50 million people, prompting an economic crisis that has pushed millions to the brink. The outpouring also comes amid years of anger over alleged abuses by the security forces.
“Javier was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Eliana Garzón, Ordóñez’s sister-in-law. “But this is the accumulation of years of anger.”
Garzón said Ordóñez was a father of two boys, ages 11 and 15, and was just one exam away from a law degree.
President Iván Duque condemned the killings Thursday but defended police, calling the country’s security forces generally “heroic” and “hardworking.”
Police in Colombia are a national body headed by the Ministry of Defense.
The circumstances that led to Ordóñez’s death have been contested.
Police Col. Alexander Amaya told BluRadio that the officers had been responding to a dispute involving several people who had been drinking. “They became aggressive,” Amaya said. “The police had to subdue them.”
A man who said he was a witness to the encounter, Juan David Uribe, told CityTV that the police account was not true and that there had been no argument. “This is a total lie,” Uribe said.