Bogotá protests claim first civilian life with death of student Dilan Cruz

The Bogotá protests that entered their fifth day on Monday has claimed the first civilian life, with the death of 18-year old Dilan Cruz.

The student, enrolled in the district school Colegio Ricaurte, was participating Saturday, November 23, in a demonstration in support of the national strike Paro Nacional when a confrontation erupted with the National Police’s anti-riot squad – Esmad. Dylan was shot in the head with a projectile from a weapon of an Esmad member.

Attended to by first responders of the Colombian Red Cross and district’s Security and Coexistence Secretariat, the seriously injured student was taken by ambulance to the San Ignacío Hospital of the Javeriana University where he was resuscitated twice and operated on by surgeons. Dilan’s medical condition remained critical until his death was pronounced at 10:05 pm by hospital staff on Monday.

The death of Dilan Cruz comes as Bogotá tries to return to some level of peace and tranquility after violent episodes during the first two days of the Paro Nacional, and that forced Mayor Enrique Peñalosa and government of President Iván Duque to enact a city-wide curfew from Friday night to Saturday morning. With 4,000 members of the Colombian Army and National Police enforcing the curfew, by midday Saturday, peaceful protests had resumed, with one close to the city’s historic center La Candelaria, scene of violent clashes between Esmad and masked protestors on Thursday.

Hours after the Dilan shooting at the corner of Calle 19 with Carrera 4, Mayor Enrique Peñalosa and Bogotá Police Chief General Hoover Penilla held a press conference in which they extended their sympathies to Dilan’s family, regretting also that the Paro Nacional has resulted in 130 civilians injured, and 340 police officers serving in the line of duty. Two members of the National Police remain hospitalized with critical injuries sustained during the riots. General Penilla reiterated that Esmad are “not equipped with standard-issue firearms as are the majority of Bogotá’s police,” but with preventive riot gear that includes tear gas launchers, batons, shields and protective suits.

Throughout Monday, #25NElParoSigue trended on Twitter, with thousands of Bogotanos taking to the streets protesting against Esmad and converging with the March of the International Day Against Gender Violence, or Violence Towards Women. Hours before Dilan’s death, Cruz’s sister, Denis Cruz, gave an emotional speech at his school. Dilan should be “a trigger to end the violence,” she said, “With my family, we ask for peace…Right now we are not looking for those who are guilty. The only thing we want in this moment is for Dilan to recover.”

Dilan Cruz became a symbol for Paro Nacional demonstrators, and while clinging to life in an ICU ward, received visits from government ministers, representatives of Colombia’s security forces, journalists and Bogotá’s mayor-elect Claudia López. Dilan was hoping to study business administration and his graduation ceremony was held on Monday.

President Iván Duque and Mayor Enrique Peñalosa sent out condolence messages to the family of Dilan Cruz upon news of his death.

Colombia’s head of the National Police, General Oscar Atehortua, released a statement via Twitter in which he writes: “As General Director of @PoliciaColombia, but especially as a father, I am deeply moved by the early departure of our young Dilan Cruz, who fought until the last minute for his life. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”

The member of Esmad who fired at the student has been suspended from the police force and faces disciplinary action. The country’s top law enforcement entity, Fiscalía General de la Nación, has opened up an investigation into the shooting.