R. C.
Teenager accused of beating to death the man who murdered his father in Andalusian village

Teenager accused of beating to death the man who murdered his father in Andalusian village

The victim of the attack had been convicted of shooting the boy's father when he spotted him stealing some beans from his farm in Huelva

Juan Cano

Friday, 5 April 2024, 16:12


José García, better known in the village as José Copón, was a retired builder who had a small plot of land on the outskirts of Rociana del Condado, a town of just over 8,000 inhabitants in Huelva province. His vegetable garden was his hobby, but it had also become his worry. For years he had been frustrated by the theft of the fruit and vegetables he planted, he told the court during a trial where he was convicted of murdering the man he believed to be one of those thieves, 45-year-old villager nicknamed El Manchego.

José Copón was due to serve 15 years in prison for the crime, although the sentence was not yet final as he was awaiting the outcome of an appeal his lawyer, Adrián Moreno Esquivel, lodged with the Supreme Court.

Just a month ago, he met by chance the son and widow of El Manchego in a pharmacy. The son, who was 12 days shy of his 18th birthday, apparently beat up his father's alleged murderer. José, 74, with the beginnings of dementia and Alzheimer's, according to the lawyer, was admitted to hospital with several head injuries and never left.

This is the chronicle of two deaths over a handful of beans:

On 5 May 2020, José hid on his farm - he was armed with a shotgun for which he had a type E firearms licence to hunt and use for sport shooting. His farm is located in the Arroyo de las Gavias area. The plot is enclosed by a two-and-a-half-metre fence. José hid to surprise the person who was stealing fruit and vegetables from his garden. He was, according to those around him, fixated on discovering the thief. He had suspected the thief was El Manchego.

The convicted murderer and now victim of the assault, José García, with his son
The convicted murderer and now victim of the assault, José García, with his son R. C.

At about 2.30pm, he watched from his post as the man he suspected entered his plot of land in the company of another person, and witnessed him stealing some beans. José Copón crept towards him - according to the sentence - and, after exchanging a few words, fired a shot from a distance of between three and five metres. The shot hit El Manchego in the face, while his companion ran away.

The jury considered that José Copón fired the shot "surprisingly and unexpectedly", which prevented any "defensive reaction" from the victim, who died immediately. After the crime, the retired builder phoned his son and told him what had happened. He then phoned the Guardia Civil, who went to the farm and found the accused next to the dead body.

José Copón was sent to prison on 7 May 2020 and remained behind bars for almost a year. On 3 May 2021, he was granted provisional release, although with a series of conditions. In January 2023, he was tried and sentenced for murder to 15 years in prison - out of the 17 and a half years requested by the prosecution - with the extenuating circumstance of confession. He was also ordered to pay 587,749 euros of compensation to the victim's family.

According to José Copón's defence, he was allowed to be provisionally released pending the sentence becoming final, as it had been appealed by his lawyer. He was initially ordered to sign in daily at the Guardia Civil barracks, but this was later reduced to weekly. A restraining order was also issued against El Manchego's immediate family members.

The defence appealed the sentence before the High Court of Justice of Andalucía (TSJA), claiming José Copón did not intend to kill his neighbour and there was no evidence that he consciously directed the shot to cause the victim's death. In addition, he requested incomplete exoneration or at least the extenuating circumstance of mental disorder due to his dementia which, according to his lawyer, he was already beginning to suffer from at the time of the crime.

The TSJA rejected the argument of an accidental shooting arguing José was used to guns as he was a game hunter, and ruled out that at the time of the crime he was not in a position to know what he was doing, according to the ruling handed down last October. However, José Copón remained free as his lawyer then appealed to the Supreme Court, with the sentence still not final.

The second death took place on 29 February. The retired builder went to a centrally located pharmacy in the village to buy some medicine. While he was sitting down to wait his turn to be served, El Manchego's widow and her son entered the shop. The scene was captured by the pharmacy's video surveillance and confirmed by witnesses. The teenager was indignant at the sight of José and, as he passed by him, made a comment and allegedly punched him in the chest. Once on the ground, he allegedly beat him up, mainly laying blows to José Copón's head.

When police arrived at the scene, José was on the floor bloodied, according to an eyewitness. The son of El Manchego left the pharmacy after his mother grabbed him by the arm and took him away. The Guardia Civil took two days to locate him and arrest him for attempted murder, according to sources.

The son of El Manchego, a boy who, according to sources, had never been in trouble until then, celebrated his birthday in mid-March in a juvenile detention centre where he is still being held. Two days after the assault, José Copón was induced into a coma, from which he never recovered. He died on Wednesday 27 March. Investigators are awaiting the full autopsy report to confirm if he died as a result of the minor's beating.

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