(LA Times).- Alina Narziso had grown used to putting on makeup and sunglasses to hide her bruises.
They came from her boyfriend, an officer on the Tijuana police force with Narziso. He tightly monitored her whereabouts and would slap her and squeeze her neck in fits of rage.
Narziso, then 24, recalled reporting the abuse to a boss, who sounded unconcerned.
“I don’t think he’s capable of killing you,” he told her.
The violence, in fact, did turn deadly. But it was Narziso, not her boyfriend, who was led away in handcuffs and charged with murder.
In a country where an average of 10 women were slain a day last year, sometimes by their romantic partners, Narziso’s case shows how Mexico deals with a lesser-known outcome: when a woman kills her alleged abuser.
Mexico’s criminal justice system has long shown little sympathy to abused women, activists say. Allegations of domestic violence are often pushed away and killings of women are poorly investigated. But a strong feminist movement has moved cases such as Narziso’s into the public eye, forcing judges and legislators to pay attention.
The Times reviewed court documents and spoke with legal experts, activists, and family members in reporting this story. The events are as Narziso described them in several interviews and in court testimony.
Narziso joined the Tijuana police at age 19 at the suggestion of an uncle on the force. Before that, she’d worked as a hairdresser.
She thrived patrolling the busy streets, feeling like she’d found her calling. Shopkeepers took her personal number and contacted her with suspicions.
She’d been on the force for about four years when, in January 2019, 27-year-old supervisor Luis Rodrigo Juárez moved to her police district. They soon became patrol partners.
Their long days on the job extended to friendship, dancing, and barbecues.
“We only wouldn’t see each other to sleep, but the rest of the time we were together,” Narziso said.
Two months after Juárez arrived, he brought her to his parent’s home. The pair fell asleep watching TV. The next morning, she said, she woke up with Juárez on top of her. He pinned her hands down and forced her to have sex, she would later testify in court.
Afterward, when she tried to leave, Juárez became remorseful.
‘I thought about leaving him, but I didn’t know how.’Alina Narziso
“He told me, ‘I’ve never spent so much time with a girlfriend, you’re the first person I’ve been with this much. I don’t know how to treat a woman,'” Narziso said. “He apologized and gave me a thousand explanations.”
It was the start of a pattern — abuse, then contrition. Narziso stayed with him, and the two began renting an apartment that summer, in the same building where she had lived with her mother.
One night in September, when she was bathing, Juárez accused her of cheating on him and grabbed her by the neck. When she denied it, he slapped her. Then he apologized, hitting his head with his hands, she said.
She texted photos of her face, and her location, to two colleagues in case they didn’t hear from her in the morning. But the next day, Narziso and Juárez both reported to work.
“I thought about leaving him, but I didn’t know how,” she said. “We were patrolling together.”
The violence continued. One day when Narziso tried to leave the apartment for a salon appointment, Juárez pushed her to the ground. He ultimately let her leave, but when she returned, he blew up, demanding to know why she had taken so long.
For Narziso, it was too much. When he left for work, she started packing to leave. Her mother, Socorro Tehuaxtle, came over to help. For the first time, Narziso told her that Juárez was responsible for the bruises she had asked about.
Narziso asked a colleague to send a police unit to prevent Juárez from entering the apartment while she packed. She moved back into her mother’s unit.
Over the next few days, Juárez would wait outside the apartment building with flowers. He approached her one day when she was eating at a restaurant, asking her to give him another chance. Again, she agreed but set a condition: that he see a psychologist and stop drinking. They soon began living together again, but he refused to go to therapy, Narziso said.
“For me, this had already turned into a normal life routine,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was a vicious cycle, that nothing would change.”
She never filed a police complaint against him because she worried about retaliation within the force. She had already seen domestic violence reports get little attention.
Once, seeing her bruises, another officer had asked, “Now what did you do? Why did he hit you?”
On Dec. 12, 2019, around 2 a.m., Narziso said, she awoke to a wide-eyed Juárez on top of her.
“Are you going to leave me because I’m drunk and crazy again?” he said, grabbing her by the neck.
He pressed the barrel of his police pistol against her head.
Of course not, she told him, she wouldn’t leave.
He stowed the gun in his waistband and started to snort cocaine, she said, but as she tried to leave the bedroom, he grabbed her by the hair and started slamming her face against the door frame. “You’re not leaving here,” he told her.
As he put her in a choke hold, she screamed for help, hoping her mother, who lived on the same floor, would hear.
As they struggled, she pulled his gun from his waistband and pointed it at him, demanding he let her leave.
He stepped toward her. She closed her eyes and started shooting.
When she opened her eyes, he was slouched but still standing. He put his hand on his chest, she said.
“It’s your turn,” he taunted her. “Kill yourself.”
When he started to step forward, she shot again. And again. This time, she said, he fell to the floor. Relief and fear washed over her as he lay motionless.
Moments later she heard pounding at the door. Her mother.
Woken by Narziso’s screams, she’d heard gunshots while running for her daughter.
“What happened?” she asked.
“He was hitting me. I shot him, and I think I killed him.”
Her mother hugged the crying Narziso and told her to call 911. Narziso said that as she dialed, she felt confident authorities would understand her actions.
“I was sleeping, he assaulted me, I defended myself,” she explained later. “I was in that moment very sure of what I had done.”
The first authorities arrived at 2:33 a.m. Officials declared Juárez, who had been shot five times, dead at the scene. And they arrested Narziso.
A doctor who examined her a few hours after the shooting noted fresh bruises. But later that day, a Baja California prosecutor announced that she was uninjured and that no evidence supported that she had acted in self-defense.
At first, Socorro Tehuaxtle, 52, wasn’t sure how to help her daughter.
She began selling burritos and sweets outside the prison where Narziso was held to help her daughter pay for clothes. She gave Narziso’s car to an attorney to pay for her defense. She educated herself on Mexican and international law, took empowerment classes at a women’s center, and eventually got a scholarship to go to law school.
She met journalists interested in telling Narziso’s side of the story. Gabriela Martínez, a reporter for the newspaper El Universal, thought of the mourning mothers she’d interviewed who wondered whether their daughters had tried to defend themselves.
“Many of us have been Alina in different phases of what she lived through,” Martínez said. “We always tell the story of a woman who has been killed. This was the first time that I was telling a story of someone who survived.”
When Narziso’s trial began in Tijuana last fall, Martínez was there to cover it.
During the trial, an expert testified that Juárez had cocaine and a high level of alcohol in his system. The doctor who saw Narziso a few hours after the homicide said she had abrasions on her mouth and bruises on her neck and forearm.
Tehuaxtle testified that from her balcony, from which she could see the couple’s bedroom window, she had seen Juárez put Narziso in a chokehold. As she ran to their apartment in her slippers, she heard her daughter cry, “Let me leave!” and then the pop of gunshots. She feared her daughter had been killed.
In court, others backed up Narziso’s contention that Juárez had been abusing her for months.
Source: LA Times