Latest News

Mexican federal officials to investigate American filmmaker's death

OAXACA, Mexico—Amid pressure from U.S. diplomats and family members of slain filmmaker Brad Will, federal prosecutors in Mexico are taking over the investigation into the American's death in Oaxaca, the state's governor told McClatchy Newspapers.

"The investigation is not over with. It's up to the prosecuting agencies," embattled Gov. Ulises Ruiz said late Monday after announcing a series of reforms in his violence-plagued state. "It's my understanding that the federal office of the attorney general of Mexico has taken over the investigation in order to get to the bottom of it."

On Tuesday, the attorney general's office would neither confirm nor deny that the investigation had been transferred to Mexico City.

Will's family has been demanding that Mexico's federal authorities take control of the investigation of the Oct. 27 shooting, which took place while Will was filming clashes between leftist protesters and a gang of gunmen in violence-plagued Oaxaca, where demonstrators have been demanding the governor's ouster.

Will was working on a documentary about the conflict that has now left at least nine people dead. Will's final, chaotic video carries images of his own shooting.

Critics have accused state investigators of fabricating evidence to cover up police involvement in Wills death. Last Friday, state authorities, citing a lack of evidence, released two police officers who'd been arrested in connection with Will's death.

"From our standpoint, to get an impartial investigation it needs to move to the federal level," said Will's sister, Wendy Will, speaking by telephone from Sacramento, Calif.

She said she had not received confirmation that federal authorities have launched an independent probe. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has been pressuring federal authorities to launch its own investigation.

Oaxaca has been beset by street riots and violent clashes since late May, when teachers went on strike to demand better pay and working conditions. Soon a loose coalition of leftist protesters were seizing radio stations, burning buses in the streets and camping out in the town's famous and picturesque central square.

On the other side were armed gunmen who, according to the leftists, are using murder and intimidation on behalf of the state government.

Graffiti demanding Ruiz's resignation cover Oaxaca's town walls and buildings. Detractors accuse him of rigging his election in 2004.

On Monday night, Ruiz announced the creation of a state commission designed to make some of the changes critics have been demanding, including judicial reforms and access to public records, including those showing how and where the state government spends its money.

It was after this announcement that Ruiz, asked by McClatchy what he would say to critics of the Brad Will probe, said the investigation had been taken over by the federal government.

At about the same time as Ruiz was speaking, federal police were arresting the top leaders of Oaxaca's main leftist protest organization, known as the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), in Mexico City.

"I think we are getting over this conflict," Ruiz said.


(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Need to map