PUERTO PLATA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC -- Dominican police officers shot and killed three people whom they said confronted them with gunfire while resisting arrest, bringing to eight the number of civilians slain this week at the hands of law-enforcement officers.
The police identified the victims as brothers Jose and Ruddy Cabrera Peņa, aged 24 and 21, respectively, and another man known only as Julio "El Santiaguero," all of whom lived in the northwestern city of Puerto Plata.
But witnesses to Friday's shootings refuted reports that the victims had fired at the officers and instead said they were summarily executed while pleading for mercy.
A woman who did not want to be identified told reporters that the three men were thrown violently to the ground by the officers and that two of the victims were handcuffed at the moment they were killed.
"They executed them; later they fired some shots in the air and placed a sub-machine gun next to their bodies. A lot of us saw what happened and we know they were killed like dogs," the woman said.
Andres Cabrera and Felina Peņa, the parents of the Cabrera Peņa brothers, denied that their children were criminals and said they could have been executed by order of drug traffickers who operate in the area.
They also said that members of a police patrol usually demand money on weekends at a drug distribution point located near the house where the two slain brothers lived.
The parents said their sons opposed the operation of that distribution point and therefore called on Dominican authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the case, adding that the version offered by the Puerto Plata police was fabricated.
The police officers, however, said the three men tried to confront them when they were about to be placed under arrest.
This incident occurred three days after police officers killed five suspected criminals in a shootout on a Santo Domingo avenue.
Juan Hubieres, president of the New Option National Transport Federation, one of the country's leading labor unions, said Friday that three of the people killed belonged to that organization and denied that they were criminals.
Dominican police have a history of summarily executing accused criminals and then claiming that the fatalities were the result of an exchange of gunfire.