Mexican Officers Shoot and Kill Student From Rural Teachers College

Mexican police officers shot and killed a student from a rural teachers college on Thursday night in the western part of the country. The episode comes at a moment of increased tension between the government and students at the college, which is linked to one of the worst atrocities in Mexico’s recent history.

The shooting on Thursday unfolded in the state of Guerrero after state police officers tried to stop a white pickup truck that had been reported stolen and were met by gunfire, according to state authorities.

The authorities said that in the ensuing shootout, one person in the vehicle, Yanqui Kothan Gómez Peralta, 23, was shot in the head by the police and later died in a hospital. A second person in the truck was arrested, and a firearm and drugs were found in the vehicle, the police said.

The Guerrero state secretary general, Ludwig Reynoso, told reporters after the shooting that Mr. Gómez Peralta was a student at the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos — a teachers college in a rural area of Guerrero with a history of activism and social protest.

In 2014, a group of 43 students from the school were attacked by gunmen, including local police officers whose commanders had been taking direct orders from local drug traffickers — as shown by a trove of text messages, witness testimonies and investigative files.

The students were abducted and never seen again. A decade later, the remains of only three bodies have been officially identified.

The teachers college on Friday condemned the actions by the police in the encounter with the pickup truck, suggesting it was an unprovoked attack.

“One of our colleagues was viciously gunned down,” the school said in a statement. “We hold the state government directly responsible for the armed attack.”

State officials said they regretted the killing, but explained that officers were responding to a crime.

“There is no attack on a student, since we didn’t know he was a student, but on a person who was driving a vehicle with a theft report and didn’t stop at the request of the authorities,” said René Posselt, a spokesman for the Guerrero state government.

Mr. Gómez Peralta’s killing came days after a group of protesters rammed the wooden doors of the National Palace, where the country’s president lives, demanding answers about the investigation into the case of the 43 missing students — which the demonstrators said the government had stalled.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, downplayed the protest and called it a provocation.

After the death of Mr. Gómez Peralta, some students from the teachers college staged a protest in Chilpancingo, the state’s capital, setting fire to a police vehicle.

José Filiberto Velázquez, a local minister and the director of the Minerva Bello human rights group in Guerrero, said a third student who had gotten out of the pickup truck to go to a nearby store alerted the college to what had happened.

Other students then called Mr. Velázquez, who disputed the official account that the students attacked the police first.

“To us, this was an extrajudicial execution,” Mr. Velázquez said. “It’s the result of a tendency of abuse of power, of police brutality that is already a habit.”

Santiago Aguirre, the lead lawyer representing the families of the 43 missing students, said there was a pattern of disproportionate use of lethal force by the state authorities in Guerrero, adding that human rights groups have documented cases of police officers planting evidence at crime scenes.

“The cautious call is for a thorough investigation that is not conducted with bias and that exhausts all necessary lines of inquiry,” Mr. Aguirre said.

On Friday morning, Mr. López Obrador expressed dismay over the killing of Mr. Gómez Peralta and said that prosecutors would thoroughly investigate Thursday’s incident. He also reiterated his intent to get answers about what happened to the 43 missing students.

“We will not respond with violence in any way. We are not oppressors,” said Mr. López Obrador, whose administration is leading the investigation into the missing students. “To know what happened and punish those responsible and find the youths — that is my commitment, and I’m working on it.”

The teachers college and the families of the missing students have criticized the government’s handling of that investigation.

Last year, a panel of international experts that had been investigating the abduction of the students announced that it was ending its inquiry and leaving the country after members of the panel said they had been repeatedly lied to and misled by the Mexican armed forces about the military’s role in the crime.

A spokesman for the Mexican military said that the country’s defense ministry was no longer authorized to speak about the missing students case.

“It is the president who speaks on this,” he said.