08/14/2007

FBI investigates taped Puerto Rico police shooting

The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The FBI said Monday it is investigating an incident caught on video showing a policeman wrestling an apparently unarmed man to the ground then shooting him dead.

Agents are interviewing officers and witnesses and are trying to obtain an original copy of the video, FBI spokesman Harry Rodriguez said.

The video, which was broadcast on a local news program, shows an officer standing over a man lying face-down and shooting him at least three times - once in the head.

"We have enough information to start that investigation," said Puerto Rico's FBI director Luis Fraticelli. He said the bureau will look into "possible illegal acts involving police brutality or the excessive use of force."

Puerto Rico's Department of Justice also is investigating.

The shooting occurred Saturday afternoon in Humacao and was filmed by a resident. Police were responding to a traffic jam when the victim, Miguel Caceres Cruz, got into a fight after insulting an officer, according to a police report.

During the scuffle, officer Javier Pagan Cruz's weapon went off, striking him in the leg, Puerto Rico police chief Pedro Toledo said. Pagan then allegedly wrestled Caceres to the ground and shot him while two other officers watched.

The FBI has 45 days to submit a report to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez said. Officials then would decide whether the FBI should conduct a full investigation.

The FBI has opened 55 civil rights violation cases from January 2003 to May 2007. Only one resulted in an indictment, Rodriguez said.

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