The government has come out loud and clear on this: the doctor who was detained after killing the man who was trying to rob him is the real victim in the case. At least that’s what Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said this afternoon. 

“We don’t want victims to be transformed into perpetrators. We want to protect victims first. And in this case, the judiciary will have to decide if there was an irrational use of force. But the doctor was the victim and we can’t forget that,” Bullrich said at a press conference today. The surprisingly frank statement is bound to agitate a case that had already caused much debate across the country over what constitutes justifiable homicide.

Let’s back up a bit and take a look at the facts of this case.

On Friday, Dr. Lino Villar Cataldo killed 24-year-old Ricardo Krabler after he tried to forcefully steal his car in the Buenos Aires province district of Loma Hermosa. According to police reports, Krabler managed to shove Cataldo out of the vehicle.  Krabler then took control of the car, but couldn’t figure out how to escape because it had automatic gears. Taking advantage of the hesitation, the doctor went in to his house and grabbed a handgun, which he used to shoot Krabler four times.

Cataldo has been remanded in custody, charged with homicide aggravated by the use of a weapon. His lawyer today presented a request to have him freed while the case is investigated, and the judge will have five days to determine whether to keep him behind bars. Everything indicates he will be released since judges in these types of casees usually only keep someone behind bars if he or she thinks there is a real chance they will escape before the investigation ends.

A particularly galling fact about this case is how the doctor apparently had time to go into his home and get the gun. Still, according to the Argentine Criminal Code, a person can clam justifiable homicide when the following circumstances are met:

  • Illegitimate aggression
  • Rational need for the action used ni order to prevent or repel an aggression
  • Lack of a certain level of provocation by the defendant

The question of what is appropriate in defense from a robbery or other crimes is often debated in Argentina yet it has taken on particular significance at a time when, at least anecdotally, crime is rising.

Judiciary sources told Diario Popular that in July and August there were at least 15 cases of the perpetrator of a robbery later being killed by the person he robbed in the City of Buenos Aires and Buenos Aires province. These numbers add up to one every four days. The judicial sources told the paper that “in each case we investigate the reason, as well as if there was justifiable homicide or if there was an excessive use of force.”