FBI officials and eyewitnesses agree that rocks were thrown Monday evening right before a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a 15-year-old boy who was on the Mexican side of the El Paso-Juarez border. They also agree that the slain teenager slain Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca was fleeing with other young people from immigration officials. But that’s about all the stories coming out today have in common.
FBI spokesperson Andrea Simmons said that the shooting took place after the Border Patrol agent was assaulted with rocks. Its El Paso office released a public statement noting: "The area where this incident occurred is a known high-risk crime area where rocks are regularly thrown at Border Patrol agents and where other assaults have been reported. The president of the National Border Patrol Council, T. J. Bonner, also told the Houston Chronicle that rock-throwing at the border is a "deadly force encounter" which "justifie[d] the use of deadly force" as a response.
Eyewitnesses, however, say that a group of boys were trying to escape an altercation with Border Patrol agents, but that Hernandez was actually hiding behind a bridge post. New Mexico’s KOB-TV reported eyewitnesses saying the Border Patrol agent fired into the crowd, that the boy was killed when he popped his head out to see what was going on. Hernandez was shot in the head.
Today, the El Paso Times reported that assaults on Border Patrol agents have been on the rise, with 29 reports of rocks being thrown since October of 2009. Bonner said that Border Patrol agents had been attacked 1,000 times between 2007 and 2009.
Except these statements don’t match up with others made by Border Patrol spokespeople. "The border is safer now than it’s ever been," U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Lloyd Easterling told the AP.
The AP’s investigation showed that Border Patrol agents deal with far less danger and violent aggression than street cops in the rest of the country face. Three percent of Border Patrol agents were assaulted last year, even though 11 percent of police officers in the rest of the country were assaulted.
And it’s not like Border Patrol agents are a submissive bunch. Just last week, a Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty in federal court in Tucson to assaulting a Mexican national in his custody. According to the FBI’s statement, Border Patrol Agent Eduardo Moreno admitted to kicking a man, throwing him to the ground, and beating him with his baton. Moreno will be sentenced on August 12.
Yesterday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who had just issued a statement condemning the killing of another Mexican national at the hands of Border Patrol on May 26, demanded an investigation into the incident that killed Hernandez. Border groups have called for both an investigation and the implementation of standards and protocol to hold Border Patrol officers accountable.
The teen boy’s mother, Maria Guadalupe Huereca, has fewer hopes for justice. "May God forgive them because I know nothing will happen," she told the AP.