Four police officers charged with culpable homicide in the murder of my son

I stood in front of the drawer where my son’s body rested and worked up the courage to open it. When I finally managed to look at his body, something felt terribly wrong. My son looked like a prop for a play, like a puppet. Traces of what appeared to be makeup wore off slowly. He looked severely beaten, almost unrecognizable.

  • 1 year ago
  • February 11, 2023
7 min read
Matías Ruiz died at 27 years old. The case against police officers remains in court. Matías Ruiz died at 27 years old. The case against police officers remains in court. | Photo courtesy of Juan Carlos Ruiz
Juan Carlos Ruiz is the father of Matías Ruiz. He speaks out on the murder of his son, on July 13, 2021, caused by police forces. From that moment on, he went through the justice agencies and the media to denounce the incident and ask that the case be brought to justice, and the culprits held accountable.
Matías Ruiz was a young hairdresser and colorist from Tucumán who lived in the province of Salta. On July 13, 2021, in the early hours of the morning, he was running without his clothes through the streets of Salta for unknown reasons. He walked 320 meters from his home to the place where he was stopped by the police. Some neighbors saw him and called emergency services. Police went to the scene first and the death occurred under questionable circumstances.

There are currently eight people charged, four belonging to the Salta police department, and four to the health services. The official report of the cause of death details a sudden death, multiple organ failure, and cardiorespiratory arrest. The victim’s father questions the report and claims that more people are involved in the death. He argues for the forensics report to be thrown out as false testimony.

SALTA, Argentina — The night I found out that my son died haunts my every waking moment. The phone rang at 3:00 a.m., alerting me to an accident. When I arrived at the station, something felt terribly wrong. Someone murdered my son and covered it up.

It made no sense to me. Losing someone you love so deeply feels surreal. My mind immediately went to the last time I saw him, as I tried to process that I would never see him again.

I felt my heart being ripped out of my chest 

Just a few days prior to the news, I called my son to schedule lunch together. I still hear his voice on the other end of the line as if it happened moments ago. His sweet voice and the sound of his laugh breaks my heart each time I think of him. 

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I remember how loud the ringing of the phone sounded that morning. Half asleep, I picked it up and listened as the cops told me about an accident that occurred involving my son. I stood there petrified, unable to believe what I heard.

The words they spoke felt distant and unreal. My heartbeat quickened and I lost the ability to speak. I refused to believe it. After a moment, I got dressed, still unable to organize my thoughts. I stared at the wall and fought hard to stay calm.

I drove to his apartment as fast as I could. Once I got there, I sat on his couch and waited all night, still in denial. I hoped he would come through the door at any moment, and this would all be a sick joke. Nobody ever came. 

They couldn’t explain his death   

I got a second phone call seven hours after they recovered his body. The police placed him in the judicial morgue. Later, they informed me the death happened on a public road, and they felt concerned about investigating the exact location where it took place. They kept the explanations vague and made sure not to make any direct statements. According to them, my son’s death happened accidentally, after officers attempted to “calm him” down. My body filled with unbelievable rage. I needed answers. 

I finished the paperwork and contacted la Ciudad Judicial to speak with the Prosecutor’s Office. At 10:00 a.m., they planned to carry out an autopsy. They held the body for 24 hours. When I arrived at the morgue, I told the prosecutor I could not bear to witness the autopsy. They insisted I do it regardless of my feelings. I prepared myself mentally and entered the room. To my surprise, they had already opened up my son’s body from top to bottom.

The images horrified me. I remained there until almost 9:00 p.m., waiting for a forensics report that never came. It took them 12 hours to complete it. The police told me my son did not die of an overdose nor from the cold. In fact, they shared no helpful information. They told me had run naked a few hundred meters away from home for unknown reasons. Neighbors spotted him and called for help. The police showed up and supposedly tried to calm him down. His death remains a mystery. 

As soon as I saw my son’s body, I knew they killed him 

I stood in front of the drawer where my son’s body rested and worked up the courage to open it. My heart broke, and it took all my strength to keep from losing my mind. When my eyes finally managed to look at his body, something felt terribly wrong. My son looked like a prop for a play, like a puppet. As the hours passed, what remained of him began to show the truth. Traces of what appeared to be makeup wore off slowly. He looked severely beaten, almost unrecognizable. My body filled with rage as I came to realize the truth. Not only did they beat my son to death, but they tried to cover it up with makeup. The very people meant to protect my son brutally murdered him. He even had marks of shoe soles on his face.

I calmed myself down and walked out. I planned to put up a fight with the official investigatory body, the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, and the judicial political leadership. Nothing could stop me. The police took my son from me. They stole the life of a 27-year-old boy with so much ahead of him. 

An empathetic, kind boy, with a great desire for growth and learning, he wanted so many things, and built a plan for his future. He loved his family and friends. From a young age, he learned to be independent, following his own path after leaving school. We felt so incredibly proud. He worked until December and got invited to join a project in Mexico. He also attended courses in Buenos Aires and was invited to do a presentation in Córdoba. My son accomplished so much, and still envisioned so much more for himself. All of that is gone now.

We call for justice and accountability for police brutality 

[According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Province of Salta four police officers and four members of the Emergency and Disaster Medical Care System have been charged with crimes in the case. Those crimes include culpable homicide and harassment. Prosecutors brought evidentiary measures forward to bring the case to trial including receipt of testimonies and analysis of security cameras. The trial is ongoing.]

The judicial system handled many similar cases such as ours. Yet, it appears to me that politics always come before justice, and perpetrators often remain protected, especially if they belong in the police department. According to a Human Rights organizations survey, the department in the province of Salta, Argentina, received over 1,388 complaints regarding police brutality in 2022. Cops give themselves a free pass under the name of the law. 

It is not the first nor last time a crime like this gets covered up. It disgusts me that the state allows police officers to commit crimes with no consequences. Police brutality continues to be ignored. They hide behind their badges, assuming the roles of heroes which they fail to live up to. We let them steal, murder, and abuse us. We must raise our voices and show the government that there needs to be accountability. For my children and for yours. We deserve justice. 

Today, we still wait to hear from the Court so the case can go to trial. They keep postponing it to try and silence us. I assembled a team consisting of a forensic expert and three criminal lawyers. For as long as I can, I aim to fight against the police department. I will not rest until Matías Ruiz’s name gets avenged, and cases such as this one never occur again in the 24 provinces of this country. While protests already take place, more needs to be done. We will not go down easy. 

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Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.


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