Police officials in San Diego are investigating the shooting death of a Mexican national by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, who fired a shot at the man after being targeted in a rock attack.
Border Patrol spokesman Todd Fraser yesterday said the agent, an eight-year veteran whose name was withheld, came under attack Friday after approaching the man along fences on the U.S.-Mexico border near the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry. He said the man was standing on the U.S. side of the fence at the time of the 7:25 p.m. encounter, but returned to Mexico after the shooting.
Mr. Fraser said the unidentified agent fired in self-defense, trying to protect himself from what agents in the area describe as a “rocking,” during which agents and their vehicles are pelted with large rocks or chunks of cement blocks. He said the agent, fearing for his life, fired one round at the man, who then fled back to Mexico. He said the agent was not sure at the time whether the man had been hit.
The shooting victim has been identified by Mexican officials as Guillermo Martinez Rodriguez, an 18-year-old who checked himself into a Tijuana, Mexico, hospital after the incident but died four hours later. He reportedly was struck by a single gunshot to the back of his right shoulder.
Mexican government officials denounced the shooting, including Ruben Aguilar, chief spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox, who said it “does no more than provide evidence that only a law that guarantees legal entry and is respectful of human rights can resolve the migratory problem both countries face.”
The Mexican government has vigorously opposed efforts by U.S. officials to bring tighter security measures or build more fences along the border, even publishing and distributing documents last year showing migrants how to illegally enter the United States.
More than 1 million illegal aliens, mostly Mexican nationals, were apprehended by the Border Patrol last year.
San Diego police homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney said detectives are investigating the shooting and results of the probe will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego for review.
Lt. Rooney said the shooting occurred between two border fences and that the agent, who was checking a report of illegal border crossers in the area, arrived in a marked vehicle and saw a man “holding a makeshift ladder as he stood near the northernmost fence.”
He said the agent ran toward the migrant, who retreated to the south and “scooped up what the agent believed to be several rocks.”
“As the agent unholstered his duty weapon, the male cocked his arm and made a throwing motion toward the agent. The agent fired at the male, who grabbed his arm and fled down a grade that leads to the primary border fence,” he said.
A total of 218 rocking incidents occurred on the San Diego border last year, injuring more than a dozen agents. The rockings have gotten so violent that Border Patrol agents in San Diego now ride in “war wagons,” vehicles fitted with custom-made steel screens and bars.
Mexico’s federal attorney general’s office said it also is investigating the incident, targeting “whomever is found to have been responsible,” although a statement released by the office does not say if it plans to bring charges in the case and if so, against whom.
The attorney general’s statement said Mr. Martinez Rodriguez, a native of Guadalajara who recently moved to Tijuana, was with four other persons when he was shot.
Mr. Fraser said that acts of violence have been on the rise all along the U.S.-Mexico border, adding that others who sought to throw large rocks at agents have been shot at, but he had no information on how many had been hit or if any had been injured or killed.
In July, rising border violence prompted the governors of California, Texas and six Mexican border states to pledge during a meeting to work together to attempt to stem the problem.