Tensions Rise Over Shooting Death Of Teen At Border
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The FBI is investigating the shooting death Monday evening of a 14-year-old Mexican boy on the U.S.-Mexico border. He was shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
As Monica Ortiz Uribe reports, exactly how the shooting happened is unclear. What is clear is that the incident is raising tensions between the two border cities.
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MONICA ORTIZ URIBE: The shooting happened at the International Bridge which is sandwiched between the two crowded border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. It was a typical Monday evening there for Bobbie McDow, a U.S. citizen who crosses the downtown bridge to Juarez on a daily basis to see her Mexican husband.
Ms. BOBBIE McDOW: I was pulling my suitcase up the bridge and I decided to rest at the top.
URIBE: McDow was a witness to the death of the 14-year-old Mexican boy. He was shot just below the bridge where McDow was standing.
Ms. McDOW: There were some kids that I could tell they were thinking to cross and so I said let's watch them, because it happens quite often and it's kind of a cat and mouse game that they play with immigration.
URIBE: McDow had a bird's eye view of the scene. The Rio Grande River here is nothing more than a muddy river bank flanked by two concrete aprons. Mexicans commonly loiter in this area and sometimes tease Border Patrol agents on the American side.
Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier.
Mr. DOUG MOSIER (Spokesman, U.S. Customs and Border Protection): And it is an area that is notorious for various kinds of criminal activity, most commonly, rock throwings.
URIBE: McDow says on Monday evening, the group of youngsters were chased by Border Patrol agents. Two were caught and detained and at least another two made it back across the riverbank to the Mexican side. One of those who made it back, she says, looked like he was throwing a rock at the agents.
Ms. McDOW: The Border Patrol agent draws his weapon and starts shooting into Mexico.
URIBE: The shots hit and killed 14-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca.
Ms. McDOW: Then I realized that there was a body underneath the row-row(ph) bridge.
URIBE: The FBI's early take on the incident is different. They say the agent was responding to a group of illegal aliens being smuggled into the U.S. He was surrounded by people throwing rocks and he fired his weapon. Rock-throwing attacks have become more common, says Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier.
Mr. MOSIER: Rock throwings are very dangerous scenarios and people need to understand that a rock is a lethal weapon and can be very dangerous.
URIBE: The Mexican foreign ministry has condemned what it says was a disproportionate use of lethal force along the border. Immigrant rights groups agree.
Fernando Garcia is the executive director for the Border Human Rights Network in El Paso. He says the shooting is raising concerns among border residents.
Mr. FERNANDO GARCIA (Executive Director, Border Network for Human Rights): It's causing frictions with our communities and with immigrants. This is not the way to treat people that are trying to cross the border. And what we're talking about is a 14-year-old kid.
URIBE: This is the second death of a Mexican citizen at the hands of American law enforcement at the border in less than two weeks. Last month, a man died at the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego after being tased by an American customs agent. The FBI is leading the investigation into Monday's shooting with the help of other local and federal agencies.
For NPR News, I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe in El Paso.
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