'Not animals': Guatemala family mourns niece killed by U.S. Border Patrol

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - The family of a 19-year-old Guatemalan woman killed by a U.S. border patrol officer called on Friday for the United States to dial-back its rhetoric on migrants, after President Donald Trump described gang members entering the country as “animals.”

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The woman, identified by her family as Claudia Gomez, was shot on Wednesday in south Texas by an officer who opened fire after several people “rushed him,” the Border Patrol said in a statement on Friday. The agency, alternately describing them as “illegal aliens” and “a group of suspected illegal aliens,” said Gomez was among them.

The Border Patrol said in an earlier statement that the people attacked the agent with blunt objects, and that Gomez was among the assailants.

“To the government of the United States, (I ask) that you do not treat us like this - like animals - just because you are a powerful and developed country,” Dominga Vicente, Gomez’s aunt, told reporters in Guatemala City.

The young woman from the Guatemalan highlands had left her home in search of work and education opportunities, Vicente said.

On Thursday, the Guatemala foreign ministry said the rights of migrants must be respected. “Guatemala laments any act of violence and excessive use of force by the border patrol,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

A seven-minute video posted online and viewed thousands of times appears to show the aftermath of the incident on a residential street. In the video, a woman calls out in Spanish, “Why did you shoot the girl? You killed her!”

Trump said last week that he was referring to criminal gangs when he called some illegal immigrants “animals.”

He defended his statement on Wednesday, adding that he was working on a plan to reduce aid to countries that he said do nothing to stop MS-13 gang members from crossing into the United States.

The notorious criminal group has a presence across El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel