FBI: Mexican Soldiers Point Rifles at Border Agents After Teen Shooting
Many see the death of the teen on Mexican soil as an act of murder.
Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka, 15 (Family Photo)
The killing of the Mexican by U.S. authorities - the second in less than two weeks - has exposed the distrust between the two countries that lies just below the surface, and has enraged Mexicans who see the death of the boy on Mexican soil as an act of murder.
Mexico's government says the number of Mexicans injured by U.S. immigration authorities has increased this year.
Shortly after the boy was shot, Mexican security forces arrived at the scene and pointed their guns at the Border Patrol agents across the riverbank while bystanders screamed insults and hurled rocks and firecrackers, FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said. She said the agents were forced to withdraw.
"It pretty quickly got very intense over on the Mexican side," she said, adding that FBI agents showed up later and resumed the investigation, even as Mexican authorities pointed guns at them from across the river.
Simmons said the forces were soldiers, but Mexico's Defense Secretary later released a statement saying soldiers were not present at the reported confrontation.
Enrique Torres, spokesman for the joint federal, state and municipal police operation in Chihuahua, said federal and local Mexican police were at the scene but not any soldiers.
A relative of the dead boy who had been playing with him told the AP that the Mexicans - who he described as federal police, not soldiers - pointed their guns only when the Americans waded into the mud in an apparent attempt to cross into Mexico.
The Mexican authorities accused the Americans of trying to recover evidence from Mexican soil and threatened to kill them if they crossed the border, prompting both sides to draw their guns, said the 16-year-old boy who asked not to be further identified for fear of reprisal.
The confrontation occurred Monday night over the body of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka, who died of his wounds beside the column of a railroad bridge connecting Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas.
Each government has made veiled accusations suggesting misconduct on the part of the other's law enforcement agents.
Hernandez was found 20 feet (six meters) into Mexico, and an autopsy revealed that the fatal shot was fired at a relatively close range, according to Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office. Mexican authorities said a .40 caliber shell casing was found near the body, suggesting that the Border Patrol agent might have crossed into Mexico to shoot the boy.
That would violate the rules for Border Patrol agents, who are supposed to stay on the U.S. side - and could open the agent to a Mexican homicide prosecution.
A U.S. official close to the investigation told the AP that authorities have a video showing that the Border Patrol agent did not cross into Mexico. In fact, the official said, the video shows what appear to be members of Mexican law enforcement crossing onto the U.S. side, picking something up and returning to Mexico. The official was not cleared to speak about the video and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Alejandro Pariente, Chihuahua state's regional deputy attorney general, said the U.S. Border Patrol has given him video which he is reviewing. He declined to describe it except to say that it has sped up the investigation.
The two killings have provoked anger in Mexico like no other recent controversy surrounding immigration, including Arizona's new law making it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant and President Barack Obama's decision to send the National Guard to the border.
Although many Mexicans were unhappy with both initiatives, popular and official reaction had been subdued, in contrast to street protests seen in previous years when the U.S. has cracked down on the border. Many Mexicans have since given up hope for a quick solution to the immigration problem, while other issues including growing drug violence have taken center stage in relations between the two countries.
That has started to change with the back-to-back deaths of two Mexicans at the border: the teenager killed Monday, and migrant Anastasio Hernandez, 42, who 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.
Anastasio Hernandez, who had lived in the U.S. since he was 14, was buried in San Diego on Wednesday.