Three police officers arrested in El Centro murder / robbery of U.S. resident; Volcano activity remains intense; Guayaquil installs 5,000 crime cameras

Aug 26, 2022 | 9 comments

The National Police have arrested three active-duty officers in connection to a murder and robbery in Cuenca’s historic district. According to regional Police Commander Edison Padilla, the victim, Vinicio Bautista Mejía, 52, was found stabbed to death Thursday morning in his house at Calles Manuel Vega and Presidente Córdova.

Police block off the murder scene near the intersection of Calles Manuel Vega and Presidente Cordova on Thursday. (El Mercurio)

Mejía was identified as a U.S. resident and native of Cuenca.

According to Padilla, video surveillance cameras show three officers arriving at the crime scene in their patrol car about 5 a.m. Thursday. “They left the scene shortly afterward and another man was seen leaving the property carrying a bag,” he said. The three officers were on nighttime patrol in the San Blas sector, adjacent to the crime scene, Padilla said.

“At 11 a.m., a call reporting a crime at the Vega – Cordova address was received and other officers were dispatched and discovered the body upstairs, covered with blankets,” Padilla said. “The victim had been stabbed repeatedly and probably died shortly afterward from his wounds.”

Padilla said the three officers, two sergeants and a patrolman, have been detained and that charges are pending. “The details are confusing and we will wait until the investigation is complete to make a final assessment. We don’t know if the men currently detained were involved in the murder or the robbery or if there is another explanation.”

Based on comments from neighbors, Mejía arrived in Cuenca two months ago with the intention of opening a clothing store at the address where his body was found. They said he owned a chain of clothing shops in the U.S. states of Texas and Arizona.

Volcano activity remains intense
Since Wednesday, ash clouds have reached heights of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) above the Sangay volcano in Morona Santiago Province. Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute says that ashfall in affecting agricultural areas of Chimborazo and Bolivar Provinces and is advising communities in Los Ríos, Guayas and Manabí Provinces to remain on alert in the case wind speed intensifies.

Sangay volcano on Wednesday night.

“On Thursday, west and northwest winds were light, keeping most of the ashfall in an area within 60 kilometers of the volcano,” the Institute reported. “If wind speed increases, the affected area will expand.”

The Institute said that eruptive activity at the volcano continues to be “intense” with a continuous flow of lava down the mountain’s flanks. It said it expects the level of intensity to remain constant for the next 72 hours.

Guayaquil installs 5,000 cameras in high-crime areas
The city of Guayaquil has installed more than 5,000 high-resolution cameras in neighborhoods that have experienced high levels of criminal activity. The cameras, which send streaming images to ECU 911 and National Police monitoring stations, have the capability to provide instant facial recognition profiles as well as images of vehicle license plates.

“We contribute the information that this system provides to the national law enforcement effort to control crime in our city,” Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri said in a statement. “The system cost the municipal government $29.5 million but we consider it an investment in our security.”


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