Maribel Salazar, the police officer shot dead in an unprovoked attack at a metro station in Buenos Aires earlier this week, was laid to rest at Chacarita Cemetery on Thursday as her family and colleagues held an emotional funeral service.
Fellow officers and family members walked from the Casa Malabia funeral home in Palermo, where the wake was held, to the cemetery to celebrate the life of the former Buenos Aires City police officer. Police authorities announced two days of mourning in response to the killing.
Salazar, 35 and a mother of two, was fatally wounded in the attack at the Retiro Subte C-line station in the capital on Tuesday by an assailant who managed to steal the victim’s service weapon.
The perpetrator, 30-year-old Oscar Gustavo Valdez, was arrested at the scene. He remains in police custody and on Thursday was questioned by police. He is likely to be charged with aggravated homicide, a more severe charge, given that Salazar was a serving officer.
According to police sources cited by the Noticias Argentinas news agency, the fatal attack occurred when Valdez got off at the Retiro station and said he was feeling unwell. After being cared for by staff, an argument arose over whether he would lie down on a stretcher.
Salazar, who regularly worked on the underground rail system, then intervened and the perpetrator grabbed her gun and started shooting.
Although the officer was wearing a bulletproof vest, one of the four shots Valdez fired grazed her neck and the other hit her in the chest. A Subte worker was also struck in the waist, causing a serious but non-life-threatening injury.
"He acted unexpectedly and that's why he took Officer Salazar, who was a woman of experience, by surprise," Buenos Aires City Cabinet Chief Felipe Miguel said in a radio interview with Romina Manguel on Radio Con Vos.
Officer Salazar was rushed by helicopter to the Churruca Hospital where she was due to undergo surgery. She did not regain consciousness.
Valdez was arrested swiftly in front of the Sheraton Hotel after trying to flee on foot and discarding the weapon. In images caught on video, as he was put into a police car and arrested, he was heard declaring: "I am the boss, I won, I won."
The detainee, according to initial reports, has a criminal record for gender violence dating back to 2021 and for resisting arrest in 2020. On Tuesday night he was taken to the courthouse of the Palacio de Tribunales and his home in Villa 31 was raided.
Maribel Nélida Zalazar was a mother of two children, aged 5 and 13, and lived in the Buenos Aires Province town of Glew. As a city police officer, she regularly worked on the Subte network’s C, D, E and H lines keeping the peace.
The officer’s death this week reignited debate over the level of protection needed for the security forces, and whether members of the Buenos Aires City police force should carry firearms.
Shortly after the incident occurred, Marcelo D'Alessandro, the City security minister who is on leave due to scandal, lamented the officer's death and used the incident to argue for the importance of tasers.
"The confrontation could have been controlled with a taser. Two years ago, we bought 60 units, but the Kirchnerite government blocked them with trumped-up excuses they use to defend criminals," he posted.
PRO party leader Patricia Bullrich also voiced her dismay. "We bought the Tasers. We spent the money of Argentines so that the police could have protection and protect citizens, they put them in a drawer and never used them again," she wrote online.
On Wednesday morning, Luis Duacastella, director of the Security area of the Institute of Public Policy, told journalist Gustavo Sylvestre on Radio 10, "the City's Public Security Law (Law 5.688) prohibits the carrying of weapons only during demonstrations, where there are many people.”
“This police officer was providing services in a place of passenger transport, where thousands of people pass by. I wonder if those in charge of prevention had thought about this," he continued.
Although he clarified that under the same law the officer had to carry out her duty because of her proximity to the problem that was occurring, he considered it "unnecessary" for the police to carry weapons "at all times" because it endangers third parties and themselves.
Yet, he clarified, "this has nothing to do with replacing a firearm with a TASER."