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Shooting of Mexican boy by U.S. border agent ratchets up tensions

June 10, 2010 |  6:22 am

Hernandez juarez shooting death The shooting death of a Mexican teenager by a U.S. border agent has further heightened tensions in the region. It is the second death in two weeks of a Mexican national at the hands of U.S. authorities, Tracy Wilkinson and Richard Serrano report in The Times.

The FBI is now investigating the Monday incident, in which 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez Guereca died after being shot in the face by a U.S. border agent on bike patrol duty along the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Hernandez's body was found on the Mexican side of the border, under a freight bridge connecting the two countries.

Andrea Simmons, an FBI special agent in El Paso, said the border agent who discharged his weapon was being pelted with rocks by suspected illegal immigrants who had crossed back into Mexico after two others were detained. The name of the agent who fired his weapon has not been released.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon once more chose strong language to protest the action by U.S. border agents. In a statement, he implored the U.S. government to "punish those responsible" for the boy's death.

In the other border-agent-related death angering Mexicans, L.A. Now reports on a video that has emerged of the incident that left Anastasio Hernandez Rojas dead on May 29 at the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana.

Hernandez, 42, was being deported to Tijuana when he became combative and was Tasered.

In the mostly dark video, first published by the Tijuana newspaper Frontera, Hernandez is not seen but is heard shouting, "No, Nooooo! Help me! Stop, please!" While his wailing continues, a woman is heard telling agents to stop. The man who is shooting the video then approaches an agent, who is standing away from the scuffle and asks why the authorities are using "excessive force" against Hernandez.

Commentators, politicians and high-ranking government officials in Mexico are condemning the two deaths. One columnist characterized the shooting death of 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez as "gringo bullets that cross the border to kill a Mexican on his own land." The union representing the Border Patrol notes that agents have come under attack repeatedly in the course of their work and that rocks can cause serious injury.

The National Conference of Governors in Mexico announced that due to the recent border deaths and  Arizona's tough new anti-illegal immigrant law, its members would not attend a bi-national conference of border governors scheduled for September in Arizona. "I don't buy the rocks argument," said Rosario Green, a senator in Mexico, according to the official news agency Notimex. "It's an excessive use of force to be shooting Mexicans who are on our side."

On Twitter, users directed angry expressions at the U.S. border patrol over the deaths. Others repeated the FBI's assertion that Mexican authorities pointed weapons at U.S. agents during the tense confrontation that left the young Hernandez dead.

Television personality Drew Carey tweeted: "I agree that the Border Patrol has a tough job, but shooting rock-throwers should be a no-go. Find a non-lethal way to handle it."

Another Twitter user wrote: "War with Mexico?"

-- Daniel Hernandez, in Mexico City

Photo: An image showing Sergio Hernandez Guereca, provided by his family. Credit: Associated Press via El Pais

 

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