- Associated Press - Thursday, March 19, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A man who escaped death because he didn’t fit in vehicles used to abduct his fellow students in Mexico met with lawmakers in Austin Thursday to raise awareness about the case.

Omar Garcia Velasquez told state senators Thursday he was among 50 students stopped by police in the southern, violence-torn state of Guerrero last September.

Because only 43 students of the rural teaching college could fit in the seven Iguala city police vehicles, Velasquez said he was able to escape.

Prosecutors allege that the students were then turned over to a drug gang, which executed them, incinerated their remains and threw their ashes into the San Juan Cocula River.

More than 100 people have been detained in connection with the killings, including the mayor of Iguala and his wife.

But parents of the students and thousands of other Mexicans have rejected the government’s version of the abduction.

Protesters have held riots throughout Mexico, outraged by the drug war that has left more than 100,000 people dead or missing since 2006.

Velasquez now hopes to incite similar responses from Americans.

He is riding in one of three caravans of survivors and family members who left Mexico this week bound for New York, where they hope to meet with the United Nations. Along the way, the caravans are stopping in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

As Velasquez, 24, sat in the gallery Thursday, senators unanimously adopted a resolution by Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, expressing sympathy for the students’ relatives.

“Every life matters,” said San Antonio Democratic Sen. José Menéndez. “The day that we take tragedies like this for granted is a sad day for human society.”

Senator Garcia said she was impressed that, amid a five-hour debate on a campus carry bill Wednesday, all 31 senators signed the resolution.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who presides over the senate, said he was always proud of the members of his chamber, but “especially proud today.”

After the resolution was adopted, Velasquez and others in his caravan spoke with Garcia, Menéndez and several other Democrats outside of Senate chambers.

While posing for photographs, Velasquez held up his arm, which was adorned with a beaded black bracelet with the number “43” in white.

“This is really good, because it gives us an opportunity for our story to be heard, and that’s what we need the most,” Velasquez said in Spanish. Menéndez interpreted his comments to The Associated Press.

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