Mexican Consulate Reacts To Killings Of Mexican Nationals By Law Enforcement In San Diego
Just in the past two weeks, law enforcement in San Diego has killed two Mexican nationals in San Diego, prompting criticism from the Mexican Consulate.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 39-year-old Jose Alfredo Castro Gutierrez, a legal permanent resident, was shot by San Diego Police officers in the city’s Mountain View neighborhood. Then, on Oct. 23, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed 30-year-old David Villalobos near the San Ysidro Port-of-Entry.
Both men suffered from mental illness, their families say. Castro Guitierrez was running toward officers carrying a curtain rod when an officer shot him, bodycam footage released by the SDPD shows. The other two officers at the scene chose to use a taser and beanbag gun rather than fire their guns.
Villalobos had just crossed the border when a Border Patrol agent apprehended him, and then killed him following an “altercation,” according to a recorded statement by Border Patrol San Diego sector chief Aaron Heitke.
The circumstances of these deaths has led Carlos González Gutiérrez, the Consul General of México in San Diego, to question police use-of-force on people in mental distress.
“It is of particular concern to us, that in both cases there seems to be mental health issues in both, which makes particularly vulnerable the victims in this type of encounters,” González Gutiérrez told KPBS.
While he acknowledges that Mexican law enforcement has its own issues with use-of-force and corruption, he sees the two countries as treating these types of incidents differently.
“I was talking with the widow of Mr. Castro Guittierez and she was sharing with us how her husband had similar incidents in Mexico, in Mexicali, and in all these instances, local police were involved,”González Gutiérrez said. “But Mexican police did not use lethal force in order to submit Mr. Castro Guttierez. The priority was to calm him down.”
The San Diego Police Department’s homicide unit will be investigating both killings. In a statement Wednesday accompanying the release of bodycam footage of Castro Guitierrez’s killing, a SDPD spokesman said the department was "committed to being open and transparent with the public."
The Mexican Consulate said in a statement on Sunday that it would be monitoring both investigations and has requested that local authorities conduct "impartial and transparent investigations to establish the facts and determine where responsibilities lie.”
Based on those investigations, the consulate would then “determine the diplomatic and legal measures to be undertaken in defense of our Mexican nationals,” the statement said.
On Thursday, the group Alliance San Diego put out a call for any witnesses to the shooting of Mr. Villalobos, who had a 12-year-old son and had family on both sides of the border.