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Guard actions in Mexico hearth seen as key to who lived, died

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CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — When a fireplace broke out at a Mexican immigration detention facility final month, dramatically completely different reactions by guards within the males’s and girls’s sections appeared to make a distinction in who lived and died, in line with beforehand unreported surveillance movies and witness statements seen by The Related Press.

Forty male detainees perished within the March 27 blaze, allegedly began by a male migrant in protest of their rumored switch from the ability in Ciudad Juarez, throughout the border from El Paso, Texas. All 15 of the feminine detainees safely escaped from their aspect of the ability because it started to fill with smoke.

The movies present that within the hours earlier than the hearth, the deadliest ever at migration detention heart within the nation, personal safety guards contracted by Mexico’s immigration company used keys to open the lads’s part to permit cleansing personnel to enter and to carry them massive jugs of water.

Nonetheless as soon as the hearth began, nobody tried to open it once more regardless of the presence of guards close by. In the meantime, on the ladies’s aspect, a feminine safety guard sprinted via the constructing with keys she stated the immigration official accountable for that wing had given her. That official, Gloria Liliana Ramos, is amongst these charged with murder.

A central query for investigators stays: The place had been the keys to the lads’s part when the hearth began?

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Seven folks – 5 immigration brokers, a non-public safety guard and the migrant who allegedly began the hearth – have been charged with murder and inflicting damage. On Friday the top of Mexico’s Nationwide Immigration Institute and the retired Navy rear admiral who was the highest-ranked immigration official within the state of Chihuahua had been scheduled to face accusations in court docket of failure to guard the migrants and murder, respectively.

Mexico’s Lawyer Common’s Workplace didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the contents of the movies and witness statements, which had been offered to AP by a lawyer for one of many accused.

On the night of the hearth, they present, male migrants started to press mattresses towards the bars to dam guards’ view of what was taking place inside. Additionally they apparently unplugged surveillance cameras that they had been capable of entry.

One man allegedly set hearth to a foam mattress, and inside seconds smoke started to fill the world. A beforehand seen surveillance video clip confirmed guards method the bars however then stroll away with out making an attempt to open the gate.

The immigration official who was accountable for the lads’s aspect that night was Rodolfo Collazo. In his assertion to investigators, Collazo stated that shortly earlier than the hearth erupted he had left to take two minors to a different facility, inserting the personal safety supervisor in cost and abandoning the keys to the lads’s part.

Ramos, his counterpart on the ladies’s aspect, confirmed in her personal assertion that Collazo had left the personal supervisor in cost.

An evaluation of surveillance video by forensic investigator Luis Fermín Cal y Mayor for one of many protection groups concluded that the keys to the lads’s part had been within the possession of the personal safety guards minutes earlier than the hearth began. That contradicts accounts from these guards in statements to authorities investigators saying that when the blaze started, they had been in a rest room filling jugs with water for the migrants and didn’t have the keys.

Within the girls’s part, one other personal safety guard, Angélica Hinojosa, ran out when the blaze started — to get assist, she stated later. She returned a short while later adopted by a member of the Nationwide Guard.

Hinojosa is seen on video racing via the constructing as feminine migrants start to cowl their noses and mouths amid the more and more dense smoke. She later informed investigators that when “it began to scent unhealthy and I noticed loads of smoke,” she requested Ramos for the keys. The ladies’s part was opened, and everybody escaped, retracing Hinojosa’s steps to the constructing’s entrance.

Feminine migrants informed authorities investigators they heard shouts from the lads’s aspect of the ability, together with determined requires water and questions on the place the keys had been.

Ramos’ lawyer, Aglaeth González, stated Ramos saved lives and shouldn’t be charged with against the law. González stated she nonetheless has not been allowed entry to surveillance movies, and immigration officers she tried to interview refused to speak citing fears of reprisals.

Collazo, the official who had left with the underage migrants, returned to seek out the ability ablaze. He informed investigators he tried to enter to seek out the keys, however was turned again by the smoke. He’s amongst these going through prison expenses of murder and inflicting damage.

One of many personal safety guards informed investigators {that a} colleague, a type of now charged with murder, did return inside and located the keys on a desk. That guard managed to open a again door however not one other lock inside, he stated.

The realm remained sealed off till firefighters arrived and broke down a wall, and solely then had been these migrants nonetheless alive capable of escape. Greater than two dozen had been injured, however survived.

Attorneys for the accused have additionally questioned whether or not prosecutors have sufficiently analyzed the hours of video from the surveillance cameras, which numbered greater than a dozen.

The nations the place the victims got here from have demanded a clear investigation to seek out and maintain accountable any officers and staff who share blame for the deaths, together with these excessive up the chain of command.

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