— VIVOplay (@vivoplaynet) June 22, 2017
As people watched on live TV, a protester hurled rocks over the fence of La Carlota air base in Caracas. His face was covered by a bandanna, and a knapsack was strapped to his chest.
Two soldiers approached, standing just feet away from the riots.
Then, one of the officers pulled out a rifle and fired, striking the activist in the chest. He stumbled off-camera. A few minutes later, a group of people are seen carrying him.
The protester, later identified as 22-year-old David José Vallenilla, died at the hospital. He had been shot in the chest three times.
Vallenilla is at least the 75th person to lose his life in this bout of civil unrest. Earlier this week, 17-year-old Fabian Urbina was shot dead by security forces, who opened fire on activists during clashes on a major highway.
The two killings, captured on film, have sparked a new round of outrage at President Nicolás Maduro.
Just about three months ago, Maduro's Supreme Court dissolved the country's parliament, transferring all legislative powers to itself. That decision roiled Venezula's opposition party, which has controlled the legislature since 2015. Opponents cried coup, and accused the president of ruling like a dictator.
Maduro reversed his order three days later, but it was too late. Protests had erupted around the country. They haven't stopped since, and activists are preparing for a long fight. They won't stop, they say, until Maduro is removed.
And the embattled president has so far taken a hard line against the activists, calling them “vandals and terrorists.” He has accused them, with no evidence, of gruesome violence, alleging for example that they're feeding amphetamine-based drugs to teenagers than using them as human shields.
At the same time, Maduro has consistently claimed that his security forces have been told to use only use tear gas and water cannons to disperse protest.
“The national guard and police are doing heroic work, without firearms, which are prohibited, and without rifles firing rubber bullets, which are prohibited,” Maduro said just a few hours before Vallenilla died. “Only water and a little tear gas, that’s all that’s permitted.”
The government has since apologized for Vallenilla's death. “The sergeant used an unauthorized weapon to repel the attack, causing the death of one of the participants in the siege,” Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol wrote on Twitter. The sergeant will be charged in court, he said. According to CNN, Reverol also noted that two members of the military had been injured by bombs thrown into the air base by protesters.
But that's not nearly enough for those who want justice. Vallenilla’s father once worked with Maduro. After he identified his son's body Thursday, he made a desperate plea to the president. “Nicolas, it’s clear there was an attack on Jose David, who you met as a little kid in Plaza Venezuela,” Vallenilla told journalists. “Nicolás, please, I don’t want to say this is how justice is carried out — this can’t be left the way it is.”