Friday, June 11, 2010

More on the Mexican youth shot by border agents on Monday

ore information is coming out about the border patrol agent who shot and killed a Mexican boy on the Mexican side of the border.  I've posted a report from CNN and two videos below.  The first is a video of the rock throwing/fatal shooting exchange.  The second is an interview with an FBI agent who is investigating the event.

The FBI is treating this investigation as an assault on a federal officer, not one of civil rights.

The Border Patrol has released a statement that indicates that the 15 year old who was fatally shot was suspected of smuggling and had been detailed several times.  Interestingly, he had never been arrested.

What I find troubling about this incident is the fact that the boys were standing a significant distance from the agents.  I doubt there was any way that the agents in question even knew who they were shooting at, but even if they did, the boy was suspected-not accused, not charged and there was no warrant out for his arrest.

I clearly understand that rock throwing can be dangerous, however, if you look at the film, the boys were a pretty significant distance from the officers, on their side of the border, and were throwing rocks in a manner that looked like they'd have trouble hitting the side of a barn. 

My question is, why did the agents feel the need to use deadly force?  Where they simply angry and lost it?  Did they feel entitled to shoot across the border and kill these kids who were certainly an annoyance.  But did they need to be shot?  Wouldn't it have been more prudent to stand back, out of rock throwing range?

It's an unfortunate incident.  I would also like to pose a another question: if a Mexican Federale shot and killed an American rock-throwing teen ON US TERRITORY how would you respond?

The full report from

(CNN) -- The 15-year-old Mexican youth who was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent had a history of involvement with human smuggling and was on a list of repeat juvenile offenders, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mark Qualia told CNN Thursday.

The victim, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, had been apprehended by U.S. officials on more than one occassion but was never criminally charged, Qualia said.

The use of juveniles to smuggle people across the border is a common tactic for smugglers, he said.
Meanwhile, a video obtained by CNN casts doubt on the Border Patrol agent's claim that he was surrounded by rock-throwing suspected illegal immigrants when he fatally shot the boy on the border at Ciudad Juarez.

CNN obtained the video, which was shot by a witness on a cell phone camera from the Mexican side of the border, from affiliate Univision. The video aired on its program Primer Impacto late Wednesday evening.

The video shows part of the buildup before the incident, with several individuals running underneath the Puente Negro, a railroad span that connects the two countries.

Monday night's incident started around 6:30 p.m. when Border Patrol agents responded to a report of a group of suspected illegal immigrants being smuggled into the United States near the Paso del Norte port of entry, FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said.

In the distance, a U.S. Border Patrol officer on a bicycle can be seen making his way toward the area. Seconds later, the officer can be seen getting off the bicycle and approaching two of the four suspected Mexican nationals who had just crossed through an opening in the fence. One of the suspects is detained by the officer, but never handcuffed, and is dragged a short distance. This happened on the U.S. side of the border.

Moments later, the officer points what appears to be his firearm in the direction of a second suspect, standing about 60 feet away from the officer -- on the Mexican side of the border. The video shows the suspect running away.

Seconds later, two gunshots can be heard on the video. A third gunshot is heard in a different sequence of the tape. After the shooting, another suspect is seen running in the upper left side of screen away from the incident.

"They're throwing rocks," witnesses screaming in Spanish can be heard in the background of the video as the officer opens fire. "They hit him ... they hit him."

The video contradicts Simmons' account. She had said: "This agent, who had the second subject detained on the ground, gave verbal commands to the remaining subjects to stop and retreat. However, the subjects surrounded the agent and continued to throw rocks at him. The agent then fired his service weapon several times, striking one subject who later died."

A federal law enforcement official told CNN that the FBI's use of the word "surrounded," was "probably not the best choice of words," and that it is more accurate to say that people were nearby throwing rocks.

The FBI has been studying videos of the incident and said some of the video does show rocks being thrown at the Border Patrol agents, the official said.

Hernandez Guereca was a secondary student in Juarez.

"The young man was not armed," said Sergio Belmonte, Ciudad Juarez spokesman. "He did not have the physical size to threaten anyone. The aggression (by the U.S. agent) is evident." Belmonte said Hernandez was shot in the head.

"My people have spoken to his family. His dad says he was a straight-A student. His secondary school even sent him on an academic trip because of his good grades," Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said.
A memorial for Hernandez was to be held in Juarez Thursday morning, according to Reyes. Local politicians were expected to attend.

Reports that the Mexican military may have drawn weapons on U.S. Border Patrol agents, which surfaced earlier Wednesday, could not be immediately confirmed. The tape released by Univision did not show any Mexican military troops.

"We are aware of those reports, but I cannot confirm them to you at this time," said Mexican military spokesman Enrique Torres. "I plan on speaking with the individuals who are said to have been involved, but I can't and won't confirm that to you. I cannot speculate."

The Mexican government has requested a quick and transparent investigation into the fatal shooting.
Mexico "reiterates that the use of firearms to repel a rock attack represents a disproportionate use of force, particularly coming from authorities who receive specialized training on the matter," the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in a news release.

Simmons told CNN earlier that she did not know whether the person who was shot was on the Mexican or U.S. side of the border, but the agent never left U.S. territory.

The body was found on the Mexican side of the border, Simmons said.

Peaceful protests against the U.S. Border Patrol were held in Juarez on Wednesday, near the site of the fatal shooting.

In video shot by CNN affiliate KVIA, a man holding a bullhorn is seen pacing back and forth on the dusty streets of Juarez, pleading "Justice for Hernandez" to any passerby who would listen.
The shooting comes less than two weeks after the May 31 death of a Mexican illegal immigrant who had been detained three days earlier by border agents in California.

A suspect identified as Oscar Ivan Pineda Ayala was initially detained on the Rio Grande levee, said the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

"The growing frequency of this type of event reflects a worrisome increment in the use of excessive force on the part of some border authorities," the Mexican Foreign Ministry said.

According to the ministry, the number of Mexicans who have been killed or wounded by U.S. border authorities has increased from five in 2008 to 12 in 2009 and 17 so far this year.

Earlier, Qualia, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, said he could not comment because he does not know where the Mexican government obtained its statistics.

But Qualia said there were 799 assaults on border agents from October 1, 2009, through May 31 -- up from 745 assaults for the same time period in 2007-08 and 658 for the same span in 2008-09.
Lethal force, he said, is allowed "when an agent is in imminent threat of physical or bodily harm, which could cause death or injury or in protection of an innocent third party."

The determination of when to use lethal force, Qualia said, is made by each individual agent at the scene.

From October 1 through May 31, he said, Custom and Border Protection agents used their firearms 31 times.

Rock-throwing can be considered a dangerous assault, Qualia said: "They're not chunking pebbles."


Anonymous said...

I think the same way you do...I'm mexican and I live in El Paso and my husband is american I really can't tell who's fault was it but living here in El Paso has been very hard for us, everytime we go grocery shopping people gives us dirty looks, we also have a friend who's african american and gets the same. And people is outraged for what happened saying things like go drop a bomb and kill all mexicans...Is sometimes really difficult to understand how so many people can be like that in 2010???It seems like if you're not a hispanic born and raised in El Paso you should be here...Not to say too my 4 year old daughter was bullied at school by her own pre-k teacher once she found out I was mexican...That lead us to take the desition to raise our daughters in Queretaro, Mexico, my family and friends are there and they adore my husband and also we don't get dirty looks all the time...Thanks for your blog it seems you are a well traveled person and that's what make the difference on peoples opinions about other countries..

Deb said...

Sorry to hear about you problems on the border. I truly believe that the current political climate in the U.S. is going to make it very difficult for Americans of Mexican and Latino descent to live here peacefully. I wish you luck with your life in Queretaro-it is so beautiful there. Deb