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Canadians' Report Leaves More Questions than Answers in Death of US Reporter in Mexico

PowerPoint of Firearms Analysis by Physicians for Human Rights Supports Ricochet Finding Ignored by Mexican Attorney General

For Immediate Release

(Cambridge, Mass.) – Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has determined that a review of the shooting death of American journalist Brad Will conducted by Canadian investigators reiterates previous inaccurate and misleading statements of Mexico’s Attorney General Office (PGR). According to reports, Will was one of at least 18 individuals who were fatally shot during protests in Oaxaca at the end of 2006.

The independent forensic review conducted in March 2008 by PHR forensic experts discovered that one of the bullets ricocheted off a red object before fatally striking Brad Will. This important finding is based on the discovery of red paint embedded in damaged areas of the projectile and the fact that the same pattern of red paint transfer is clearly visible in photographs taken at the time of the autopsy when the bullet was extracted. This is clearly inconsistent with the claims of the PGR’s Office that the gunshot originated from a gun in Will’s immediate vicinity, directly striking him in the chest, without striking anything in its path first. There is no evidence of an intermediary red object close to the victim off of which the projectile could have ricocheted first before impacting the victim in the chest.

The July 17, 2009 report by the Canadian team commissioned by the PGR to carry out a review of the case rejects PHR’s ricochet finding solely by reiterating the PGR’s claim that the projectile was “painted by someone to designate it.” However, while proper chain-of-custody records should be easily available, neither the Canadian experts nor the Mexican authorities have produced information about any individual who is said to have painted the projectile red. The Canadian report also fails to recognize that marking evidence in areas of analytical value is contrary to any accepted forensic standard operating procedures.

The International Forensic Program (IFP) at PHR works with experienced forensic experts and all reports undergo a technical peer review process. The IFP’s forensic team assembled that examined the physical evidence in the Brad Will homicide was headed by IFP forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Bux, who is the Medical Examiner in El Paso County, Colorado. Dr. Bux has 25 years of experience as a forensic pathologist including work for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Attorney General of the Republic of Mexico (PGR) on past cases. The projectiles in the Will case were also examined by IFP firearms and tool marks examiner Jeff Foggy, who was trained by the FBI and by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He has nine years’ experience in analyzing bullets and making distance determinations in criminal cases.

“I carefully examined the projectile under a microscope in Mexico,” stated PHR forensic analyst Jeff Foggy. “At the time I examined the projectile, as is documented in the photographs we took, there was no indication that someone had painted over anything that might have appeared to be biological tissue, such as bone.”

Foggy’s findings contradict the Canadian experts’ claim that bone fragments on the projectile had been painted over after removal from Will’s body. PHR’s analysis of the damage to the projectile also contradicts the claim by the PGR and the Canadian team that the damage to the projectile resulted from its impact with the bone from which it was extracted.

“Copper jacketing on projectiles, such as the one recovered at the autopsy, typically will not split in this manner by impacting bone,” states PHR forensic pathologist, Dr. Bux. “We can see this by looking to the second projectile that struck Brad Will from the same gun. Not only did it embed itself virtually undamaged deep in the left hip bone but it most likely struck the right hip before that.”

Additionally, controlled tests in the laboratory carried out by Foggy, using a hammer and chisel similar to those seen in the autopsy video that were used to extract the bullet were not able to split the copper jacket on a projectile.

PHR Releases PowerPoint on Analysis of Ricochet in Will Case

Physicians for Human Rights has posted a PowerPoint presentation in English and in Spanish on its examination of evidence in the Brad Will case, including photos and documentation. To view the slideshow online, visit:

“The Canadians’ report reiterates inaccuracies previously brought forth by the PGR. It also fails to recognize that the homicide of Brad Will was one of several gunshot-related deaths and injuries during the protests in Oaxaca that year,” says Stefan Schmitt, Director of PHR’s International Forensic Program. “Lamentably, the PGR does not appear to be willing to seriously investigate connections between the violent deaths that occurred in Oaxaca in late 2006. There is no indication that they intend to compare the evidence between cases as one would expect when there is such a clear pattern of unsolved killings.”

PHR's International Forensic Program conducted its review of the investigation at the request of both Amnesty International and the attorney for the Will family which, under Mexican law, is allowed full access to the case file and the opportunity to provide information to the prosecution. The IFP’s forensic team and work are entirely funded through Physicians for Human Rights.

The International Forensic Program (IFP) at PHR is dedicated to providing independent forensic expertise to document and collect evidence of human rights violations and of violations of international humanitarian law. Since the 1980s, PHR has mobilized forensic scientists and other experts worldwide to respond to inquiries by governments, organizations, families, and individuals. IFP experts come from all forensic science disciplines, ranging from pathology to anthropology, and including experts from analytical sciences, such as firearm examiners. The IFP offers a variety of services which include forensic investigations, evaluations, monitoring, review of work done by other parties, and specialized training. IFP’s services can be requested by institutions, organizations, and individuals. PHR adheres to a policy of strict impartiality and is concerned with human rights abuses everywhere.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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