Mexico has called for a U.S. border agent who shot dead a 15-year-old boy to face its justice system after mobile phone footage of the incident was released last night.
In the grainy video, aired by TV station Univision in Mexico, an American official tries to detain suspected illegal immigrants running into the U.S. on the banks of Rio Grande while other men pelt him with rocks.
He holds one suspect on the ground and fires shots towards Mexico. The camera then shows the body of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka’s body under a nearby railroad bridge.
What is still unclear is whether Hernandez was one of the rock-throwers and whether the agent or the victim crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
Border Patrol agents are allowed to use lethal force against rock-throwers.
Mexico–through diplomatic correspondence and an angry phone call to the Homeland Security Secretary–have called for the agent’s extradition to face its justice system, as the teenager was killed on its side of its border with El Paso, Texas.
Shortly after the shooting, Mexican federal police chased Border Patrol agents out of the riverbed with rifles trained on them while a crowd on the Mexican side taunted the U.S. officials and threw rocks and firecrackers.
Referring to Arizona’s new ‘discriminatory’ immigration law, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in a statement today: ‘We are worried by this surge of violence against Mexicans, which comes along with a surge of other anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican occurrences in the United States.’
Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont phoned U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to protest over the killing of Hernandez and a man on the California-Mexico border two weeks ago.
Mr Gomez Mont’s office said he demanded that the U.S. and Mexico carry out a joint review of protocols on the use of force by border officers.
Gomez Mont told Ms Napolitano the ‘unjustified use of force against our population is unacceptable to the Mexican government’.
Mr Calderon’s government has comes under increasing criticism at home for what some Mexicans believe is a lukewarm reaction to the two deaths.
Opposition politicians and commentators criticised him for leaving yesterday to watch the World Cup in South Africa.
Jesus Ortega, president of the opposition Democratic Revolution Party, said the Border Patrol agent who shot Hernandez should be extradited to Mexico.
‘When a delinquent commits a crime in Mexico that affects a U.S. citizen, extradition is immediately requested and the Mexican government immediately grants it,’ he said.
Mr Calderon gave no indication his government had any intention of seeking extradition. Instead, he called for a thorough U.S. investigation that ‘clears up the facts and culminates with punishing those responsible’.
The dead teenager’s father Jesus Hernandez said: ‘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.’
His wife Maria Guadalupe Huereca said: ‘May God forgive them because I know nothing will happen to them.’
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.
‘During the assault at least one agent discharged his firearm,’ he added. ‘The agent is currently on administrative leave. A thorough, multi-agency investigation is currently ongoing.’
The boy’s sister, Rosario, said her brother was playing with several friends and did not plan to cross the border.
Mexican forensic experts examine the body of 14 year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca
At odds: Mexico has criticised the U.S. for its ‘disproportionate use of force’ and demanded an investigation
‘They say that they started firing from over there and suddenly hit him in the head,’ she said.
It comes comes less than two weeks after another Mexican migrant, Anastasio Hernandez, 32, died after a U.S. border official 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.
Both the U.S. and Mexican governments have made veiled accusations suggesting misconduct on the part of the other’s law enforcement agents over Monday’s shooting.
Hernandez was found six metres 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-calibre 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 said 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 on to the U.S. side, picking something up and returning to Mexico.
Alejandro Pariente, Chihuahua state’s regional deputy attorney general, said the U.S. Border Patrol has given video footage which he is reviewing.
He declined to describe it except to say that it has sped up the investigation.
A vigil was held for the dead teenager last night near the scene where he was shot.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon pledged to ‘use all resources available to protect the rights of Mexican migrants’.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said its records indicate the number of Mexicans killed or wounded by immigration authorities rose from five in 2008 to 17 so far this year.
The teenager was shot dead in El Paso on Monday, less than two weeks after another Mexican was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol officer in San Ysidro on the California border
Last month President Calderon travelled to Washington for talks with Barack Obama over the contentious issue of illegal immigration into the U.S. and the controversy over the recently passed Arizona anti-immigrant law.
He said: ‘I know that we share the interest in promoting dignified, legal and orderly living conditions to all migrant workers.
‘Many of them, despite their significant contribution to the economy and to the society of the Unites States, still live in the shadows and, occasionally, as in Arizona, they even face discrimination.’