Crime

Mexican police tried to cover up killings of two Kansas men

KAKE News obtained permission to post photos of the scene captured by local outlet Noticias Saltillo.
KAKE News obtained permission to post photos of the scene captured by local outlet Noticias Saltillo.

Two Kansas men were shot and killed by elite Mexican police officers while on a weekend getaway south of the border.

The officers, members of GROM, an elite, SWAT-style squad, later tried to cover up the killings in the northern border state of Coahuila at a highway checkpoint near Saltillo. Police initially accused the two Kansas men of firing on them first — a claim that was later debunked after an investigation.

The two men killed, Edgar Valdez-Rodriguez, 39, and Demetrius Atkins Jr., 32, both worked in construction in the Wichita area, according to Atkins’ mother, Teresa Allen. Valdez-Rodriguez was Atkins’ boss.

Both lived in Wichita.

Atkins texted his mother on the Friday before he was killed, telling her he was heading to Kansas City for a weekend vacation. She wasn’t aware they had driven to Mexico in a new truck until she learned of their deaths a day later.

“It’s very devastating,” Allen said by phone Tuesday. “You can’t even live in this world and you get shot just because you’re in the wrong area.”

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Demetrius Atkins Jr. Family

The incident occurred Oct. 28. That day, police issued a statement saying the officers “gunned down two armed civilians after they (officers) responded to an armed attack.”

The police account said the two men were speeding and tried to avoid the checkpoint.

“Several yards down the road they fired their weapons several times at the GROM officers, who chased them,” the statement said. “The officers returned fire, killing the two suspects.”

An official in the state prosecutors’ office said contradictions in that version led investigators to test the Kansans’ hands for gunpowder residue. None was found, indicating they had not fired on the officers. The official said the two men were simply driving through Coahuila on a highway that heads south.

The two police officers are in jail awaiting arraignment on first-degree homicide charges.

KAKE News obtained permission to post photos of the scene captured by local outlet Noticias Saltillo.

Valdez-Rodriguez’s wife told KAKE that her husband was a legal U.S. resident.

Allen said they may have been traveling south to visit Valdez-Rodriguez’s sisters.

Regardless of the reason for their journey, she wants the officers responsible to be held accountable.

“I want to talk for him (her son) because he can’t talk for himself anymore. I have to get justice,” she said.

She described her son as a devoted father to an 8-year-old daughter, who lives in Texas. He was saving up for a present for her birthday later this month, and he often sent money to help with her upbringing.

An official with the Consulate General in Monterrey has contacted Allen and is helping coordinate the return of the bodies, which were still in Mexico 10 days after the deaths.

Allen believes the two men may have been lost when they came upon the officers who killed them.

“My son didn’t know nothing at all. I don’t know if he knew what he was getting into,” she said. “I’m mad as a mother that I have to bury my child because of somebody’s mistake.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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