Who killed Brad Will? - Page 5

And why has the murder of an American journalist in Mexico gone unpunished?
photo by Raul Estrella for El Universal

He didn't speak much Spanish.


On Oct. 27, Will went out to do interviews on the barricade at Santa María Coyotepec, about 20 kilometers from the city. The three barricades at Coyotepec, Cal y Canto, and La Experimental were crucial to closing down Oaxaca the next day. The broad Railroad Avenue where the barricade was stacked was empty. Nothing was moving. Will walked on to the next barricade at La Experimental to check out the action.

Soon after the Indymedia reporter left, all hell broke loose at Cal y Canto. A mob of about 150 Ruiz supporters stormed down Railroad Avenue, led by what witnesses thought was a Chevy Blazer. The vehicle was moving very fast. "We thought it would try and crash through the barricade," Miguel Cruz, an activist and witness, recalled. But the SUV stopped short, and several men jumped out with guns blazing. The APPO people hunkered down behind the makeshift barrier and moved the women and kids who were with them into a nearby house. Then they went on the counterattack with Molotov cocktails, homemade bazookas that fired bottle rockets, and slingshots. Most of the mob had melted away, and with the gunmen retreating, the rebels torched their vehicle.

Will heard about the gunfire and hurried back to Cal y Canto with a handful of other reporters. They arrived a little after 3 p.m.

Will climbed under a parked trailer to film the shooters. He focused on a man in a white shirt. When an APPO activist (who is not seen on the videotape) came running by, Will indicated the shooter — "Camisa blanca." While all this was going on, the camera captured a bicyclist peddling dreamily through the intersection. Soon after, a large dump truck appeared on the scene, and the group on the barricade used it as a mobile shield as they chased the gunmen down the avenue.

Suddenly, the pistoleros veered down a narrow side street, Benito Juárez, and took refuge in a windowless, one-story building on the second block. The only access to the building was through a large metal garage door, and the reporters followed the APPO militants, many of whom were masked, as they tried to force their way in. Will stood to one side of the door for a minute, poised for the money shot. Then the compas tried unsuccessfully to bust down the big door by ramming the dump truck into it.

In the midst of this frenzy, five men in civilian dress — two in red shirts (the governor's color) and the others in white — appeared at the head of Benito Juárez, about 30 meters away, and began shooting at the rebels.

Two of the gunmen were later identified by Mexican news media as Pedro Carmona, a cop and local PRI political fixer, and police commander Orlando Manuel Aguilar Coello. One of those in the white shirts, crouched behind Carmona, was Abel Santiago Zárate, a.k.a. El Chino. Santiago Zárate and Aguilar Coello were reported to be the personal bodyguards of municipal president Manuel Martínez Feria of the PRI. The other two would later be fingered as Juan Carlos Soriano, a.k.a. El Chapulín (the grasshopper), and Juan Sumano, both Santa Lucía del Camino police officers. All five are eminently identifiable in the film Will shot just moments before the bullets hit him.

When the shooting erupted, Will took cover on the opposite side of the narrow street from the rest of the media. He was crouched against a lime green wall when the first bullet came. On the video soundtrack, you can hear both the shot and Will's cries of dismay as it tore through his Indymedia T-shirt and smashed into his heart. A second shot caught him in the right side and destroyed his innards. There was little blood spilled, the first slug having stopped his heart.

In footage that witness Gustavo Vilchis and others filmed, the entrance wound of the first shot looks like a deep bruise.