Fourteen hours after the tragic death, Interior Minister Andres Chadwick released the first official statement from the government, saying an exchange of fire was provoked by barricades erected along the road and random shots from various locations, forcing police to take extreme action.
"At that time there was a tractor that according to police reports was carrying two people and one of the bullets hit a young man who was on it,” Chadwick said.
“We deeply regret the death of the young Camilo Catrillanca, we do not wish that any youth die — whatever his origin, place or circumstance — as a result of violence," he said.
However, the minister continued defending military personnel, saying the region was notorious for car theft and unspecified incidents of robbery. Chadwick tactfully avoided the numerous criticisms of the state’s delay inaddressing the young man’s death despite the eruption of protests around the nation.
“I have spoken with the director of the Chilean Department of Police Investigations who has been entrusted with this case,” he said.
Catrillanca was killed in the middle of a police operation in the community of Temucuicui, Ercilla, in La Araucania region. Around 200 Chilean police entered the area firing indiscriminately on the Mapuche community during the evening of Nov. 14, human rights organizations report. Catrillanca, the grandson of the Lonko (community leader) Juan Catrillanca, was shot in the head and at least five people were injured.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the Legal Medical Service of Temuco and Ercilla’s office where Catrillanca died. A group of protesters also gathered at the Plaza de la Republica in the city of Valdivia to express their support for the Mapuche cause and to reject police brutality.
On Thursday, there were several clashes between Mapuche members and police forces. Minister Cecilia Perez is expected to visit Araucania Thursday. A national mobilization has been organized in protest of the killing and shooting. It is scheduled for 7:30 pm, local time.