CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Mexicans are seething over the second death of a countryman at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents in two weeks, an incident near downtown El Paso that is threatening to escalate tensions over migrant issues.
U.S. authorities said Tuesday a Border Patrol
agent was defending himself and colleagues when he fatally shot the
15-year-old as officers came under a barrage of big stones while trying
to detain illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.
About 30 relatives and friends gathered late
Tuesday to mourn Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka, whose shooting Monday
evening came along the border with Texas. He died on the Mexican side of the river.
"Damn them! Damn them!" sobbed Rosario
Hernandez, sister of the dead teenager, at a wake in the family's
two-room adobe house on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez.
Preliminary reports on the incident indicated
that U.S. officers on bicycle patrol "were assaulted with rocks by an
unknown number of people," Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor
Ramiro Cordero said Tuesday.
"During the assault at least one agent
discharged his firearm," he said. "The agent is currently on
administrative leave. A thorough, multi-agency investigation is
The shooting happened beneath a railroad bridge
linking the two nations, and late Tuesday night a banner appeared on
the bridge that said in English: "U.S. Border Patrol we worry about the
violence in Mex and murders and now you. Viva Mexico!"
Less than two weeks ago, Mexican migrant
Anastasio Hernandez, 32, died after a Customs and Border Protection
officer shocked him with a stun gun at the San Ysidro border crossing
that separates San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. The San Diego medical
examiner's office ruled that death a homicide.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Tuesday
that his government "will use all resources available to protect the
rights of Mexican migrants."
The government "reiterates its rejection to the
disproportionate use of force on the part on U.S. authorities on the
border with Mexico," the president added in a statement.
On an unpaved street, gathered around Hernandez's gray metal casket, the teen's family called for justice.
"There is a God, so why would I want vengeance
if no one will return him to me. They killed my little boy and the only
thing I ask is for the law" to be applied, said the boy's father, Jesus
His mother was less hopeful. "May God forgive them because I know nothing will happen" to them, Maria Guadalupe Huereka said.
Above the casket was a photo of the youth
wearing his soccer uniform and his junior high school grade cards,
which showed A's and B's.
His mother said he was a good student who never
got in trouble. He was the youngest of five children, played on two
soccer teams and had just finished junior high school, she said.
The case took a testy turn when U.S. and Mexican officials traded suggestions of misconduct in the incident.
a spokesman for the Chihuahua state Attorney General's office, said a
spent .40-caliber shell casing was found near the body — raising the
question of whether the fatal shot was fired inside Mexico, although he
did not explicitly make that allegation. That would violate the rules
for Border Patrol agents, who are supposed to stay on the U.S. side of
A U.S. official, meanwhile, said video shows the Border Patrol agent did not enter Mexico.
The official, who agreed to discuss the matter
only if not quoted by name, said the video also shows what seem to be
four Mexican law enforcement officers driving to the edge of the dry
but muddy bed of the Rio Grande, walking across to the U.S. side,
picking up an undetermined object and returning to Mexico near the area
where the boy's body was. Like their U.S. counterparts, Mexican law
officers are not authorized to cross the border without permission.
According to the FBI,
Border Patrol agents were responding to a group of suspected illegal
immigrants being smuggled into the U.S. near the Paso Del Norte bridge,
across from Ciudad Juarez around 6:30 p.m. Monday.
One suspected illegal immigrant was detained on
the levee on the U.S. side, the FBI said in a statement. Another Border
Patrol agent arrived on the concrete bank where the now-dry, 33-foot
(10-meter) wide Rio Grande is, and detained a second person. Other
suspects ran back into Mexico and began throwing rocks, the FBI said.
At least one rock came from behind the agent,
who was kneeling beside a suspected illegal immigrant whom he had prone
on the ground, FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said.
The agent told the rock throwers to stop and
back off, but they continued. The agent fired his weapon several times,
hitting one who later died, said the FBI, which is leading the
investigation because it involved an assault on a federal officer. The
agent was not injured, Simmons said.
Chihuahua state officials released a statement demanding a full investigation into the death.
The boy was shot once near the eye, Sandoval said. Authorities were still investigating the bullet's trajectory, he said.
Sandoval said he couldn't comment on the video
reported by the U.S. official because he didn't know anything about it.
"I am unaware about those hypotheses," he said.
Sandoval said Mexican investigators were questioning three teenagers who were with the victim at the time of the shooting.
The boy's sister, Rosario, told Associated Press
Television News that her brother was playing with several friends and
did not plan to cross the border.
"They say that they started firing from over there and suddenly hit him in the head," she said.
The boy's mother said he had gone to eat with
his brother, who handles luggage at a border customs office. While
there, he met up with a group of friends and they decided to hang out
by the river, she said.
"That was his mistake, to have gone to the
river," she said in an interview with Mexico's Milenio TV. "That's why
they killed him."
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said its
records indicate the number of Mexicans killed or wounded by U.S.
immigration authorities rose from five in 2008 to 12 in 2009 to 17 so
far this year, which is not half over.
president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, said rock
throwing aimed at Border Patrol agents is common and capable of causing
"It is a deadly force encounter, one that justifies the use of deadly force," Bonner said.