On August 12, 2009 a 24-year-old Mapuche man named Jaime Mendoza Collío was shot and killed by Miguel Patricio Jara Muñoz, a Chilean police officer (carabinero). The shooting occurred in the context of a land dispute over traditional Mapuche territory. Within a week, the officer was charged with using unnecessary force that resulted in death, and has defended himself by arguing that the force was justifiable given the circumstances. The courts repeatedly rejected Jara’s claims of self-defense and, after many appeals, Jara was sentenced to five years and one day in prison in November of 2011. On Saturday, August 18th, the Chilean military court system, announced that it was abandoning the earlier conviction on the grounds that Jara’s actions were done in self-defense.
The Military Court acquitted Jara and agreed with his long-standing argument that Jaime Mendoza Collío was killed in self-defense. The Court indicated that Jara was “ambushed” by Mapuche individuals who were throwing objects at the officer. The counterargument to Jara’s story has long been the fact that the shot that killed Mendoza struck him in the back. Additionally, there was no evidence that any firearms had been discharged at the officer before he shot.
The Court’s decision was met with immediate outrage from various sources. For instance, Senator Navarro (MAS), quickly made a statement calling the military courts “an institution of the dictatorship that should be abandoned.” Additionally, the attorney of Miguel Patricio Jara Muñoz’s family indicated that he was going to file documents with the Supreme Court of Chile asking them to set-aside this most recent decision by the Military Court.