SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela – A middle school student died Tuesday after being shot in the head during an anti-government protest in Venezuela's restive western region.
Preliminary investigations suggest the 14-year-old was injured during a confrontation between police and protesters in the city, and died on the way to the hospital, according to San Cristobal Human Rights Commission President Jose Vicente Garcia.
A photo of the middle schooler lying in a pool of blood, his backpack hanging over his shoulder, as a man frantically tries to staunch the bleeding rocketed around the socialist South American country Tuesday afternoon.
Residents of the university town known for its tendency toward protests were outraged.
"How are you going shoot point blank at a student who's just leaving school to go home?" asked Glenda Lugo. "We're tired of this injustice."
Ruling party officials swiftly condemned the killing.
Venezuelan ombudsman Tarek William Saab, a federal official charged with defending human rights, said on Twitter that he deplored the "vile assassination" of the teen, who he named as Kluiverth Roa, though other officials spelled his first name differently.
Saab said officials had already detained the police officers supposedly involved in the killing.
It's not clear who might have fired the bullet, which Garcia said there was reason to believe came from a shotgun. The attorney general's office has opened an investigation into the teen's death.
Tensions are running high in Venezuela following of a slew of bad economic news and the arrest last week of the opposition mayor of Caracas. February marks the one year anniversary of massive street protests that choked neighborhoods around Venezuela and left more than 40 people dead.
Dissatisfaction with the administration has grown in the past year, but opposition leaders have so far been reluctant to call for similarly large-scale protests.
Hannah Dreier and Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this story from Caracas