Colombian student activist Lucas Villa was declared brain dead Monday night, nearly a week after he was shot eight times at a peaceful protest against President Ivan Duque’s government, CNN Espanol reported, citing a statement from San Jorge de Pereira University Hospital where he was being treated.
His family and the government also confirmed his death on social media Tuesday.
The 37-year-old was one of three students shot by unknown gunmen on motorcycles at a demonstration on the evening of May 5 in Pereira, central Colombia.
“Continue dancing in each cloud and make everyone there happy, like you did here,” his sister, Nicole Villa wrote in a post on Instagram.
The death caused consternation in Colombia, as Villa was a well-known figure in Pereira, and doctors at San Jorge Hospital had expressed hopes he might recover from his wounds.
Duque commented on the protester’s death on Twitter writing: “We stand with the Villa family with deep sadness after the news of Lucas’ death. I repeat what I [said to] Mauricio, his father, that this becomes the opportunity to come together and reject violence. To the responsible [I wish] all the power of the law.”
The government is offering a reward of 100 million Colombian pesos ($27,000) in exchange for any “information to capture those responsible,” Minister of Defense Diego Molano wrote on Twitter, before expressing “all our commitment to finding those guilty for this atrocious crime.”
What behind Colombia’s latest protests?
Colombians initially took to the streets on April 28 over proposed tax reforms put forward by Duque, who said the changes were “a necessity to keep the social programs going.”
The government has since withdrawn the reforms but the demonstrations have continued in response to security forces’ heavy-handed response to grievances.
Videos of anti-riot policemen using tear gas and batons against protesters have gone viral on social media, spreading beyond big cities and across the country. Far from curbing the protests, alleged police brutality has become a focal point for the demonstrators, who are now calling for an independent, international inquiry into the deaths.
A total of 42 people, including one police officer, have been killed during nationwide protests in Colombia since April 28, according to the latest report from the country’s Ombudsman.
However, rights groups such as the Colombia-based NGO Temblores and US-based Human Rights Watch believe the death toll to be higher and say more than 45 people have died.
Molano also said on Twitter that 849 police officers have been injured, 647 people have been arrested, and 378 firearms and 72 explosive devices have been apprehended.