When does a bullet wound received in the call of duty not merit the equivalent of a Purple Heart for a Guardia Civil officer? When it's a ricochet, it seems.
It was during the early hours of the 15th of September, 2017 in the municipality of Guadahortuna that a local was out on the streets shooting left, right and centre. Not good for tourism, admittedly. The village fiestas had just drawn to a close and somebody was obviously disappointed.
The cause of this behaviour was a feud that had blown up in the municipal caseta (marquee). Insults had been exchanged, fists had followed and before you knew it, half the village was involved.
The Guardia Civil turn up and attempt to arrest the culprit but are then surrounded by around 20 locals intent upon preventing this. It was at this point that shots were heard.
The officers at first thought that there were fireworks going off until one of the officers felt an impact against his calf. “Arma!” shouted one of the officers and the officers scattered to take cover behind parked vehicles. This was when one officer looked down at his uniform and saw blood coming from an abdomenal wound, “I’m hit,” he said, in disbelief.
It was at this point that a second officer felt an impact against his leg – there had been at least a dozen shots fired. However, there was no bullet wound and no blood – it had been a ricochet.
Back to the present day. This incident has led to a lawsuit; not against the shooter, but between the Guardia Civil and the officer wounded by a ricochet. The corps had decided that he should receive a gong; Cruz de la Orden del Mérito de la Guardia Civil with a white ribbon. The other three officers received the same medal but with a red ribbon, which is higher.
The reason that the top brass gave for this was: “although his actions were of great merit, the impact that he received was from a ricochet, therefore a bullet that was not actually aimed at him.”
He was not impressed, so he took his superiors to court and won the case and thus received the red-ribbon distinction to his Order of Civil Guard Merit, Cross with Red Ribbon.
The court sentence admitted that one officer received a chest injury with entrance and exit wounds that could have cost him his life, the other officer received an impact by a bullet that did not incapacitate him from carrying out his duty. However, the judge did not consider that the difference between the two injuries is sufficient motive for the honours awarded to be distinct.
The Law, reads the sentence, does not take into account the gravity of the wound. As for the corresponding ribbons, “legislators prefer to reserve the red ribbon for cases of death, absolute or permanent mutilation;” there is no difference in the behaviour or actions between the two. In other words, they were both exposed to the same danger and both behaved in the same manner – the one with the more serious wound did not act more courageously, for example.
Editorial comment: you don’t go against your superiors in the forces and come out unscathed. In the British armed forces you have the Right of Redress against your superiors, but even if you did win your case, you would be a leper for the remainder of your military service.
(News: Guadahortuna, Granada, Andalucia)