CODEPOLA president provides eyewitness account of Salinas restaurant shooting
By The Star Staff
Ariel Torres Meléndez, president of the Corporation for the Defense of Gun License Holders of Puerto Rico (CODEPOLA by its Spanish acronym), said the shooting that occurred on Saturday at the Puerta al Sol Restaurant in Salinas “was not a shooting, but a direct attack by the owner of the premises against a customer.”
“We were at the scene to corroborate the events. We maintain that the events did not occur as described by the local press,” Torres Meléndez said. “Among the people involved in the incident there are two members of CODEPOLA, and the third victim is a friend of those who accompanied them to dine at the place.”
Part of an investigation by CODEPOLA was carried out in person at the scene of the events, before witnesses, Torres Meléndez said. The group also conducted interviews at the medical facilities where the victims were taken, he said.
“Our investigation shows that three people were hanging out in the bar of the aforementioned business, when the owner of the restaurant, who in turn is a lieutenant of the Puerto Rico Police attached to the Canine Unit, uttered obscene words in front of employees and diners. Then he approached one of the injured and knocked over his drink,” Torres Meléndez said. “When the gentleman got up and cleaned his shirt, the lieutenant drew his regulation weapon and shot him in the groin without a word. After this, he proceeded to strike another of the companions in the face with his regulation weapon. Then he went back to where the bullet-wounded person was on the floor and continued hitting him.”
During the investigation process, several officers from the Special Investigations Bureau (NIE by its Spanish initials) came to the scene and took control of the investigation. Meanwhile, restaurant employees went to the hospital in a show of solidarity and support for the injured victims and stated that what happened “was not their fault,” Torres Meléndez said.
They said they were surprised by the behavior of their boss and that “the extreme reaction of the owner cannot be explained,” he said.
However, police colleagues from the Salinas District told the families of the injured that “they had previously had to intervene with the lieutenant due to his character and aggressiveness,” Torres Meléndez said. “Former Puerto Rico Police officers describe him as ‘trigger happy,’” he added.
Torres Meléndez said the injured parties are requesting that the NIE immediately take possession of the hard disk of the security system recordings from inside and outside the establishment so they can have evidence of everything that happened and prove their innocence, since they fear that because the aggressor is a policeman, witnesses may feel intimidated.
Torres Meléndez said that during the early morning hours, “the investigation mysteriously took another turn and the arrested detainees were released with their respective blows and bruises on their faces and bodies.
“One of the victims is still in the Hospital Menonita de Guayama due to the gunshot wound, and not in the Medical Center in Río Piedras, as originally reported in the news media,” he said.
The CODEPOLA president said he trusts that the investigation will be carried out with integrity and speed by the NIE, and the justice secretary and district attorneys to whom the case was assigned.
“If my clients acted badly, we will assume the consequences, but if everything points to the preliminary reports that we have in the investigation, we will be looking at the process of filing charges,” Torres Meléndez said. “I have given instructions for our colleagues to be assisted by [attorney] Roxanna I. Soto Aguilú … and to see to it that their rights are protected. It was recommended that the third victim go to her primary doctor, have herself examine and document medical evidence regarding the beatings she received in the incident.”