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Eyewitness Video Raises Questions About Death At Border Crossing

Audio

Aired 6/11/10

The family of a man who died after federal agents shot him with a stun gun at the San Ysidro border crossing said they will file a civil lawsuit claiming wrongful death. An attorney representing the family of Anastasio Hernandez said the emergence of an eyewitness video raises a lot of questions.

The family of a man who died after federal agents shot him with a stun gun at the San Ysidro border crossing said they will file a civil lawsuit claiming wrongful death. Mexican President Felipe Calderon calls the incident, which happened two weeks ago, an unacceptable violation of human rights.

Death2: Humberto Navarette shot a video on his mobile phone of Hernandez being beaten by federal agents. He says contrary to official reports, Hernandez did not fight back.
Enlarge this image

Above: Death2: Humberto Navarette shot a video on his mobile phone of Hernandez being beaten by federal agents. He says contrary to official reports, Hernandez did not fight back.

Attorney Gene Iredale says the family of Anastasio Hernandez will file a civil suit for wrongful death. Hernandez died May 31, 2010 after federal agents tasered him at the San Ysidro border crossing.
Enlarge this image

Above: Attorney Gene Iredale says the family of Anastasio Hernandez will file a civil suit for wrongful death. Hernandez died May 31, 2010 after federal agents tasered him at the San Ysidro border crossing.

At a press conference Thursday, an attorney representing the family of Anastasio Hernandez said the emergence of an eyewitness video raises a lot of questions.

It's hard to see much on the video, which was shot at night on a mobile phone. Anastasio Hernandez is not visible. But you can definitely hear him. Federal agents detained Hernandez when he tried to enter the United States on May 28th. He was undocumented.

Humberto Navarette was at the San Ysidro border crossing when he heard Hernandez's screams. He ran towards the scene, and started to shoot video on his cell phone. Navarette said Hernandez was face down on the ground, his arms handcuffed behind him. One federal agent had a knee on his back; another had a knee on his neck.

"All the time Anastasio was screaming for help, I noticed that there was something wrong, because they didn't only have the knees on the back of his neck, but they were also hitting Anastasio on the ribs. Right and left side,” said Navarette.

Border patrol officials said Hernandez began fighting them as they tried to escort him back into Mexico. Navarette said that's not what he saw.

“I never saw Anastasio fighting. In fact I never saw him on his feet. All the time he was on the ground,” said Navarette.

Navarette said after a few minutes of watching agents on top of Hernandez, he saw more pull up to the scene. Next, they dragged Hernandez about 100 feet off to a dark area. Then, he saw an agent shoo the other officers away.

“This agent pulled out from his waist, pulled out what I recognized as a Taser, as a stun gun, and started tasing Anastasio on the ground,” said Navarette. (Story continues below)

Video

Eyewitness Video Of Anastasio Hernandez

Above: Eyewitness Humberto Navarette was at the San Ysidro border crossing when he said he heard Anastasio Hernandez's screams. He ran towards the scene, and started to shoot video on his cell phone.

He said the incident is deeply troubling from a number of standpoints. “Why was he moved away from where he was visible to other persons? Why was he then surrounded by approximately 20 federal agents? And finally, why, and for what possible reason, was there the administration of five separate shocks from a Taser?

The San Diego Police Department Homicide unit is investigating the Hernandez case. Lt. Kevin Rooney has seen the video. But he said it doesn't give him any new insight into what happened to Hernandez.

“We were already aware that he was yelling while he was struggling with the officers. So neither the fact that he was yelling, nor actually the words that he was saying, was a surprise to me,” said Rooney.

Nonetheless, Rooney said he's glad to have the video. “It's our responsibility to try to collect everything we can that sheds light on what happened. And our job is to organize that and collect it, and then present it to the United States Attorney,” said Rooney.

Rooney believes the police investigation should be completed by the end of the month.

Attorney Gene Iredale said he hopes the investigation is thorough and transparent. And that's not all.

"We hope that this tragic death will lead to training, to some attempt to insure that there is not the abuse and overuse of physical force, and especially of electronic force in the form of a Taser, that can result in death," said Iredale.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI is now investigating the death of Anastasio Hernandez.

Comments

Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | June 11, 2010 at 10:01 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

The video is extremely grainy, and there may be some improper behavior taking place, but here is something that is crystal clear:

High doses or long term use of methamphetamines can bring about a drug-induced psychosis where the user becomes subject to paranoia, confusion, hallucinations, and extreme violence; in fact violent behavior is common among Meth users.

Meth use not only destroys your mind but your body as a whole, in particular the heart. Pumping it into overload more than the most powerful cappuccino, and under stress you're just adding to the damage it puts on your cardiovascular system.

If you heard one of these people in the dark screaming while being detained the question you'd have to ask yourself is were they really being abused, or were they imagining bugs crawling under their skin?

You probably wouldn't know the difference if you hadn't ever had to deal with people on this stuff, and or, if you hate cops or feel a bias toward any authority in general my guess is you're bound to overplay the version you want portrayed.

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Avatar for user 'lupartera2'

lupartera2 | June 11, 2010 at 11:25 a.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

I think you are making an assumption. Same thing played out during the Rodney King case back in the 90's. Anytime there is a person of color involved with law enforcement there is an assumption that the person is always under the influence. That person brought it on to himself/herself. I say bogus! You can't assume--you weren't there. The officials involved will always try to make it look like they were in the right. There is something called "excessive use of force" that these officials use now and then. I am not saying that all of them are that way just that it happens if the right conditions are present. We will never know exactly what happened but a human being died.

You can also look at the incident that happened this week at the border of El Paso and Juarez. A 14 year old boy was shot in the head from a distance on the Mexican side by a U.S. border patrol. You can see the patrol dragging one the teens and shooting like a cowboy into the distance. Sure someone shot a video on their cell phone--some parts are missing but it's quite obvious by the witnesses talking and what you see. It was shot during the day. So the boy died because he threw a rock and missed at a border patrol.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/10/border-patrol-shooting-vi_n_608181.html?ref=fb&src=sp#sb=998113,b=facebook

or see the long version in spanish by Univsion:
http://univision.com/content/videoplayer.jhtml?cid=2432212

I was born in El Paso to Mexican parents and I'm outraged today of some of the comments posted "they shouldn't be breaking the law"...etc....If this happened in Mexico to a white U.S. person there would be a huge investigation and an "international incident". There are a lot of Americans living in Mexico. Why can't we all get along? What we need is immigration reform not more unjustified killings.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | June 11, 2010 at 12:58 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

The below was taken from the LA Times on June 3rd, 2010:

"Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas, 42, died Saturday after a struggle with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent at the U.S.-Mexico border. The medical examiner's report read that at the time of death, he had "acute methamphetamine intoxication" as well as high blood pressure and heart disease."

The below was taken from CNN/US on June 9, 2010:

"A suspect identified as Oscar Ivan Pineda Ayala was initially detained on the Rio Grande levee, said the FBI, which is leading the investigation."

"Another agent arrived on his bicycle along the cement apron that forms the riverbank on the U.S. side," Simmons said in a release. "That agent detained a second subject, Augustin Alcaraz Reyes, but other subjects ran into Mexico and began to throw rocks at the agent."

"This agent, who had the second subject detained on the ground, gave verbal commands to the remaining subjects to stop and retreat," Simmons said. "However, the subjects surrounded the agent and continued to throw rocks at him. The agent then fired his service weapon several times, striking one subject who later died."

Agents have been killed by Mexicans, Americans who have visited Mexico have been killed, and raped, and robbed. It's well known even by people who enjoy visiting Mexico that the police there are notorious for being corrupt.

While I don't condone mis-use of force, I also have no sympathy for people who break our laws and retaliate against the those who are trying to apprehend them. Ever been hit with a fastball? How would you handle having several people throwing fastball rocks at you while you are trying to detain someone? You have authority and a gun. Just curious, what would you do?

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