MEXICO CITY — The slaying of a 10-year-old boy at a movie theater to see the animated Disney film “Wreck-It Ralph” has caused a commotion in Mexico’s capital and cast a harsh light on the inaction of police and prosecutors.
Someone fired a single gunshot that struck the head of Hendrik Cuacuas while his father and 12-year-old sister sat beside him. The slaying occurred Nov. 2, but news of it only broke this week.
Public anger prompted investigators to seal off the cinema and continue interrogating employees Tuesday about the youngster’s slaying. Cinepolis, the world’s fourth largest theater chain, also came under fire for allowing the feature film to continue after the mortally wounded boy’s evacuation.
The father of the boy, Enrique Cuacuas Miranda, an engineer, said he took his son and daughter to see “Wreck-it Ralph” at a multiplex theater in the Ixtapalapa area of the capital. About half an hour after the feature began, Cuacuas said he “heard something whistle by my ear.” Moments later, he turned to see his son in convulsions.
“I tried to get him to talk to me, to respond, and he wouldn’t,” Cuacuas told the W Radio network.
Unbeknownst to Cuacuas, someone in a row in front of his family had fired a gun at his son’s head. For an unknown reason, the shot produced neither a loud report nor a muzzle flash.
Upon feeling blood on his son’s head, Cuacuas took action.
“I stood up and said, ‘No one leaves here until this is cleared up. I’m going for the manager,’” Cuacuas said.
Employees stopped the film and turned on the lights. A gurney arrived but it was not immediately clear that the boy had been shot, only that he was in convulsions and bleeding from the head.
Some of the 274 people crowding the theater shouted at Cuacuas for interrupting the show. Cuacuas recalled that they said “maybe I was the one who hurt him.”
The family accompanied the wounded boy to the basement of the Plaza Ermita center. When a Red Cross ambulance failed to arrive, a theater employee took the boy in his own vehicle to a nearby hospital. He was transferred later in the evening to better-equipped hospital.
After X-rays were taken, Cuacuas said he learned that it wasn’t a piece of glass or other projectile that hit his son but a bullet. The boy died of complications Nov. 4.
On Monday night, city coroner Edmundo Takahashi Medina said the shot came from only a yard or so away.
“They must catch the wretch who did this,” Cuacuas told another radio network, Radio Red.
More than a week after the incident, the city prosecutors office promised to take action.
“We will ask for the (closed circuit) videos of the theater. We’ll ask all employees who were there at the time to testify to seek what they say, and also to the cinema company,” said Edmundo Garrido Osorio, an assistant city prosecutor.
The boy’s distraught grandmother, Lourdes Olivares, told Milenio Television that Cinepolis, Mexico’s largest movie theater chain, should have closed the multiplex at Plaza Ermita long ago.
“Drug addicts go there, and they should do something about this,” Olivares said. “I ask for all mothers not to let their children go to this movie theater.”
The legal director for Cinepolis, Pablo Jimenez, said Tuesday that none of those in the theater heard a gunshot, defending the chain from criticism for continuing the film.
“There was never any panic or anything like that, and that’s why we didn’t suspend the showing. There wasn’t information available that would make us think that we ought to take this kind of action,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez said the chain only learned of the boy’s death this week.
Consternation about the boy’s slaying exploded on social media in Mexico, where #CinepolisAsesino (Cinepolis murderer) became a trending topic on Twitter.
Typical of comments was one by @jomarmtz, who wrote: “I’d rather download movies illegally than go to #CinepolisAsesino. How bad for that boy.”
Ruben Arellano, a television reporter in the neighboring state of Mexico, tweeted that Mexico City crime analysts “begin investigations at the scene of the homicide only 10 days late. Incredible!”
Mexico City has largely avoided drug-related violence affecting other parts of the country, and the homicide rate is lower than in some U.S. cities.