The Rule of Impunity: Mexican Government Ignores Overwhelming Evidence, Charges Oaxacan Activists with Brad Will’s Murder

By John Gibler

On October 27, 2006, Brad Will stood on Juarez Avenue in the municipality of Santa Lucia del Camino, Oaxaca, Mexico. He was filming a violent clash between armed, civilian-clad municipal police and officials and members of the Oaxaca Peoples’ Popular Assembly, or APPO

Brad, a longtime New York City activist and independent journalist, traveled to Oaxaca in early October 2006 to report on the protest movement led by the state teachers union that sought to oust governor Ulises Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had ruled Oaxaca with an iron fist for almost 80 years.

Brad stood amid the APPO protesters and other journalists, filming down the length of Juarez Avenue where armed officials were firing at the protesters. Brad was shot and fell to the ground, his camera still running, having recorded the sound of the shot that hit him. Brad was shot from straight on, just below the chest, and yet his killer does not appear in the camera frame at the moment of the gunshot. Brad died on the way to the hospital. He had been shot twice.

Two years later, on October 16, 2008, the Mexican federal government arrested two members of the APPO, charging Juan Manuel Martinez as the gunman and Octavio Perez with helping to cover up Brad’s murder (Perez was later released on bail). Federal police were still looking for other suspected accomplices, all members of the APPO who had tried to carry Brad to safety and save his life.

The arrests came after a series of human rights reports criticized the government’s investigation for failing to follow leads pointing to local officials who were widely photographed by the press shooting at APPO protesters on October 27, 2006.

“It is such a coverup,” said Kathy Will, Brad’s mother, in a telephone interview on learning of the arrests. “It is an insult to us and to all of the groups that have tried to help with a meaningful investigation.”

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