Venezuela on Thursday filed charges against a gang of children — one who was just 8 years old — on grounds they killed two military officers over the weekend in a grisly robbery that's rattled the nation.
In a press release, Venezuela's Public Ministry said it had jailed three teens, ages 14, 15 and 17, for homicide and robbery in relation to the stabbing deaths of Army sergeants Yohan Migul Borrero Escalo and Andrés José Ortiz.
Two other children, ages 8 and 12, who were also involved in the incident, were put into child protective services.
The government said that at about 2 a.m. on Sunday the two military officers were in Caracas near the Sabana Grande boulevard — a popular pedestrian walkway known for its shopping and bars — when they were robbed by the gang, which is known as Los Cachorros or The Puppies.
A family member of one of the victims told El Nacional newspaper that the two men had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette when two children stole one of their bags. When the men chased after them, however, they were ambushed by a group of about 10 youths with knives.
Borrero Escalo died at the scene and Ortiz died on his way to the hospital, according to the government report.
Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and homicides and kidnappings are commonplace. Even so, this case has raised alarms.
According to the Observatory of Venezuelan Violence, or OVV, the South American nation saw at least 28,479 violent deaths in 2016 for a total of 91.8 deaths per 100,000 residents. At that rate, Venezuela would have the second-highest homicide rate in the world after El Salvador.