SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (Reuters) - The parents of a Mexican teenager allegedly killed last year by a bullet fired by a U.S. Border Patrol agent across the Rio Grande river, on Monday sued the U.S. government for $25 million.
The U.S. Border Patrol says Sergio Hernandez Guereca, 15, was pelting U.S. agents with rocks from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande river last June when Border Patrol agents on the U.S. side shot him to death.
But Bob Hilliard, attorney for the Mexican family, said today that the boy was the victim of “brutality” on the part of the federal agents, and was “shot in cold blood.”
“We have seen brutality captured on video tape that stuns us as a country, when we think that law enforcement are trained and should not do that,” Hilliard said.
The incident was videotaped by several individuals and was broadcast on the Spanish-language Univision television network, and posted on the internet. It has come to represent the lawless nature of the violence along the Texas Mexico border. It is unclear from the grainy cell phone video whether the boy was throwing rocks at the time.
“Part of this lawsuit seeks to require the government to turn over the border camera video and see it and get a better look at it,” he said.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in El Paso, names the Department of Homeland Security, The U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an “unnamed agent” of the U.S. Border Patrol as defendants.
“The parents are hopeful that the main thing they get is an accounting of the Border Patrol’s conduct,” Hilliard said, adding he is hoping that criminal charges will be filed against the agent.
The case has widened a gulf between the Border Patrol and activist groups who say the U.S. uses a heavy hand in dealing with issues regarding immigration and human smuggling.
The FBI has claimed that Hernandez was a known immigrant smuggler who had been pressed into service by smuggling gangs taking advantage of his youth. They said that Hernandez guided illegal immigrants into the United States, and they have said that he was attacking the border agents with rocks at the time.
“It was clear from the witness statements early on that something had happened that should not have happened,” Hilliard said. “The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, actually said an investigation into this young man’s civil rights is ongoing. This is a serious international incident.”
Hilliard said that since the gunman was a U.S. federal agent firing from U.S. soil, and the bullet traveled into another country and killed a person, jurisdiction will also be a major issue in this case. The shooting has been condemned by Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon and has been the cause of demonstrations in Juarez, which is located across the river from El Paso and is one of the most violent cities in the world due to the ongoing war between powerful smuggling and drug gangs.
The agent who shot Hernandez has never been identified.
Editing by Greg McCune
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