UPDATED: 12 people trampled to death in Mexico nightclub raid

MEXICO CITY (MTN) — A police raid on a crammed Mexico City nightclub turned into a deadly stampede that killed 12 people, including nine youths and three police, officials said.

Police entered the New Divine nightclub, where around 1,000 people had gathered to fete the end of the school year, on Friday to break up the illegal sale of alcohol to minors and a stampede ensued, said Joel Ortega, a local security official.

“Unfortunately, the person in charge of the nightclub took the microphone and announced a police operation was underway,” Ortega said, adding that his words “sparked a panic.”

People rushed to get out, causing a stampede. Cases of beer were blocking the emergency exit, officials said.

Bodies at entrance to Disco
[/Bodies in the street]Seven youths — three of them young women — and three police died at the scene. An 18-year-old and a 15-year-old succumbed to injuries in the hospital, where around 20 others were rushed for treatment.

“The deaths were attributed to asphyxiation by suffocation,” said public prosecutor Rodolfo Felix.

The raid took place around 6:30 pm (2330 GMT), about an hour and a half after the gathering kicked off.

A ticket to enter the party cost 30 pesos (three dollars), and the two-story, 20 square meter (215 square feet) space quickly filled beyond capacity.

The capital’s main nightly newscast broadcast a brief video that was taken by police at the moment when officers entered the premises.

In the video, a cloud of smoke appears on the dark premises, youths can be heard shouting and a disc jockey says in a calm voice over a loudspeaker: “We are going to evacuate the place, there is a police raid.”

People were continuing to line up outside the club in the hopes of entering as the raid was announced.

Police arrested three nightclub employees, including the DJ, and 39 other people on charges of disturbing the peace. Authorities said there was no exchange of gunfire and denied using tear gas on the crowd.

Abandoned shoes lay scattered outside the entrance to the discotheque, and a group of youths briefly returned to the scene to throw stones at a hundred or so police officers who remained outside.

Asked if police took adequate precautions to avoid the tragedy, Ortega answered: “Many plans are made ahead of time, but a lot depends on the attitude of the people inside and how the group behaves.”
Mexico City Police raid on Club Devine
UPDATED

17 Mexico City Cops fired for participation in raid that killed 12

MEXICO CITY — Police officials on Tuesday fired 17 officers here in connection with a botched raid on a bar last week that triggered a stampede, leaving a dozen people dead.

The firings came as newly released video footage showed police officers blocking exits as hundreds of young patrons tried to flee. The bar’s owners were suspected of serving alcohol to minors.

The incident, at a bar called News Divine in a gritty section of northern Mexico City, has been the talk of the capital for days and spurred a flurry of finger-pointing.

Family members of the deceased have gathered in front of the bar to demand punishment for police and borough officials involved in the raid.

Some politicians have called upon Police Chief Joel Ortega to resign. But he has remained, promising to punish any officers found to have acted improperly.

The city’s popular left-wing mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, denounced the raid in harsh language, vowing a thorough investigation and swift corrective measures. The incident represents the first serious political crisis for Ebrard since he was elected mayor in 2006.

The dead included nine patrons and three of the officers who took part in the operation. Police arrested the owner, Alfonso Maya Ortiz.

The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18.

Hundreds of young revelers, many of them celebrating the end of the school year, were packed inside the 1,100-square-foot bar by the time police arrived late Friday afternoon.

The owner announced the raid over a loudspeaker and asked everyone to leave, promising free entrance the following week. But witnesses said they quickly found themselves trapped amid stifling heat.

“The police told us they were not going to let us leave and closed the doors,” 16-year-old Rebeca Mohzo, told the Televisa network. “Everyone was desperate because there was no air.”

Police videotape of the scene showed pandemonium as patrons were pressed against the exits, many screeching in fear. They were shown fanning themselves in the heat and could be heard pounding on the locked doors.

The footage, broadcast repeatedly Tuesday on television, also showed a tumultuous scene outside the bar as police attempted to revive those who had collapsed, including a police officer.

Separate footage, apparently shot by an onlooker and posted on YouTube, showed helmeted police using their shields to strike some of the escaping patrons.

Mexico media reported that prosecutors were considering charges against the operation commander, Guillermo Zayas. He was fired immediately after the raid.

Among the 17 officers fired Tuesday was one who had been honored previously as officer of the year.
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