07/10/12 -In a strongly worded statement issued the morning of July 9, the Mexican government condemned the shooting of a Mexican citizen by U.S. Border Patrol agents two days before. Calling the death of Juan Pablo Pérez Santillán (30) a ‘disproportionate use of lethal force by Border Patrol agents,’ the Mexican Foreign Ministry (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, SRE) called for a swift and transparent investigation while simultaneously filing a request for the extradition of the agent responsible for the shooting. The extradition request was summarily rejected by U.S. authorities who have dispatched the FBI to investigate the shooting. According to El Universal, the Mexican government is also conducting its own independent investigation.
The shooting occurred on Saturday, July 7, across the Rio Grande river near the bridge connecting Matamoros, Mexico, with Brownsville, Texas. Two agents fired at Mexican territory in separate instances – one after coming under attack by assailants throwing rocks and the second after seeing what appeared to be a gun pointed at the agents by an individual across the river. It is believed that the later incident resulted in the victim’s death, though authorities have not conclusively confirmed which shooter was responsible for killing Pérez. Immediately after the shooting, U.S. agents arrested three other Mexican nationals, including Pérez’s 14-year-old nephew.
The family of the victim gathered Monday morning to await the return of Pérez’s body, which is in the custody of Mexican authorities for investigation, and the release of their young nephew, who continues to be held by U.S. officials. They are insistent that Pérez was collecting wood along the riverbank and was not armed at the time of his death. There are conflicting reports regarding the location of the U.S. agents in question, with some Mexican eyewitnesses insisting they crossed the river before shooting Pérez and official U.S. sources stating they remained on the U.S. side of the river. The U.S. Border Patrol is standing behind the actions of their agents, insisting both fired in self-defense, and characterizing the rock throwing as assault with deadly force. The Mexican government has offered its full legal and diplomatic support to the Pérez family as the investigation moves forward. Additionally, the Brownsville Mexican consul has released statements saying that they are investigating the shooting not only as a violation of national sovereignty, but also as a violation of human rights.
In a related case, the Mexican government filed an ‘amicus curiae’ (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals relating to the 2010 murder of 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Guereca. Paralleling this past weekend’s case, in the 2010 incident U.S. Border Patrol agents fired across the Rio Grande river after Hernández allegedly threw rocks at agents attempting to arrest undocumented migrants. The U.S. government declined to extradite the responsible Border Patrol agent.