Taser Death At Border Under Investigation
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June 11, 2010 – Local Border Patrol agents are being accused of using excessive force in the death of Anastasio Hernandez, who died three days after being tasered by agents at the San Ysidro crossing. Border Reporter Amy Isackson gives us the latest details on the investigation into Hernandez's death.
Related story: Taser Death At Border Under Investigation
GLORIA PENNER (host): Last month, Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas of Mexico died after being shocked with a stun gun by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Now, an eye witness has come forth with video he took on his cell phone that shows the detainment of Hernandez by law enforcement officials. Some are questioning if the agents used excessive force in subduing Hernandez. Here to give us an update on this story is KPBS border reporter <a href="/staff/amy-isackson/">Amy Isackson</a>. Amy, first of all, who was Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas? AMY ISACKSON (KPBS reporter): He was 42 years old, he'd been in the U.S. for 26 years, crossed as a teenager illegally to work here, he built pools here, he had a wife here, got married here, and had five U.S. citizen children who were living here. He'd been deported, and he was trying to cross back to get back to his family. PENNER: Why was he lasered? I mean, OK, so we know that he was here illegally, and we know that he was about to be deported? But why was he lasered? I mean, tasered? ISACKSON: So he got caught after crossing with his brother, and for some reason, they took Anastasio to the border, to San Ysidro, to be removed back to Mexico, alone. Federal officials and authorities, San Diego police who are investigating, say when Anastasio was led out of the van, they undid his handcuffs, and they say that Anastasio began fighting with the border agents at that point. The border agents say he became out of control, San Diego police say they hit Anastasio with a baton, when that didn't work, they tasered him. PENNER: So now an eyewitness has surfaced. Who is he, what does he say? ISACKSON: So his name is Umberto Navarrete, he's a student, a med, studying to be a medical assistant. He says on Tuesday he was looking for the World Cup Schedule, and he was looking through the newspaper, and he saw an article about a man being beaten and tasered, who'd died at the border, and he realized, 'This was the video that I have from crossing the border on May 28th. He has video of a man yelling, a man he says, down on the ground, handcuffed, face-down, with one agent, a federal agent, with a boot on his neck, another agent with a knee on his back. PENNER: Well, we do have a short piece of the video he took with the cell phone, so let's look at that. CELL PHONE VIDEO - OFF-CAMERA VOICE 1: [Indecipherable] "Why're you guys using excessive force?" CELL PHONE VIDEO - OFF-CAMERA VOICE 2: "I don't know what's going on over there... CELL PHONE VIDEO - OFF-CAMERA VOICE 1: "Huh?" CELL PHONE VIDEO - OFF-CAMERA VOICE 2: "Obviously he's doing something... he's not cooperating..." PENNER: Explain what we just saw. ISACKSON: So that was video that Umberto took with his Blackberry crossing the border, he was so concerned about what he was seeing with this man down on the ground, he was shouting at border agents, "Why the excessive force?" PENNER: And what has been the reaction of the Mexican government to the incident? ISACKSON: The Mexican government has condemned this, they're extremely concerned, they believe that excessive force was used, and they're extremely concerned now because, 10 days later, a teenager was shot by border patrol agents in El Paso, so that makes two people in 10 days at the hands of U.S. fedeeral agents. PENNER: So now that the focus really is on the border agents, what has been the response of the Border Patrol about allegations of excessive force? ISACKSON: It's border patrol, customs and border protection, as well, and they have -- PENNER: Is that the one Alan Bersin is -- ISACKSON: He's the head of Customs Border Protection -- PENNER: -- He is. ISACKSON: -- which is actually Border Patrol as well. So they have lamented the death, but they will not comment further because they say that the investigation is ongoing. Here in San Diego, the agents involved in the tasering are all at work as usual. PENNER: Then, what can we expect next? Can we expect just silence, or do you think we'll get some periodic reports on this? ISACKSON: We should expect autopsies, both from the family, private autopsy, and the San Diego Coroner, in a few weeks; we can expect a civil lawsuit on behalf of the family; the attorney general of the United States is investigating the case; the San Diego Police homicide unit is investigating the case as well, and hopes to complete their investigation within about a month; and we can also wait to see how relationships with, how the U.S.-Mexican relationship shakes out after these incidents. PENNER: OK, well, thank you very much, Amy Isackson. ISACKSON: Thank you.