Teen shot by Border Patrol was smuggler
| June 26, 2010 9:00 PM
EL PASO, Texas - A 15-year-old Mexican boy shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent was among El Paso's most wanted juvenile immigrant smugglers, according to federal arrest records reviewed by The Associated Press.
The records show Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca had been arrested at least four times since 2008 and twice in the same week in February 2009 on suspicion of smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Hernandez was repeatedly arrested along the U.S. side of the border near downtown El Paso, not far from where he was killed, but was never charged with a crime by federal prosecutors.
A Border Patrol agent shot and killed Hernandez June 7 while trying to arrest illegal immigrants crossing the muddy bed of the Rio Grande. Some witnesses said a group of people on the Mexican side were throwing rocks at the agents. Agents are generally permitted to use lethal force against rock throwers.
The records show that in at least one case Hernandez was to be paid $50 a person for smuggling four people into the U.S.
The records also show that in one case, federal prosecutors declined to charge Hernandez because there were no "extenuating circumstances or endangerment."
Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Antonio, said he could "neither confirm nor deny that information."
Border Patrol officials have declined to comment on his criminal record, citing an ongoing FBI investigation into whether the shooting was justified under Border Patrol rules and whether the agent, who remains unidentified, violated Hernandez's civil rights.
FBI Special Agent William Weiss also declined to comment Friday.
Mexican authorities have called the killing a murder and some demanded that the agent be extradited to Mexico to face criminal charges. U.S. officials have said that is highly unlikely.
A grainy cell phone video capturing the shooting shows several illegal immigrants trying to scramble back to Mexico after a bicycle-mounted Border Patrol agent arrives in the riverbed. The agent detains one man on the U.S. side of the border and fires two audible shots toward Mexico after putting the man on the ground. The video shows what appears to be a body underneath a nearby railroad bridge spanning the border.
Border Patrol officials have said the agent told the rock throwers to stop and back off, but they persisted and he fired several times.
A federal official familiar with the investigation said Friday there is evidence that Hernandez was throwing rocks at the agent at the time of the shooting. The official, who has been briefed on the case and reviewed some evidence, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the case publicly.
Hernandez's mother, Maria Guadalupe Huereca, said she didn't believe her son had ever been arrested.
She said it couldn't be true because her son had never spent a night away from home and questioned whether police would have repeatedly released suspected smuggler after just a few hours.
"It's a lie," she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "And if it were true, it wouldn't give them the right to kill him."
"May God forgive them."
State and federal prosecutors in Mexico declined to comment, saying there would be no discussion of an ongoing investigation.