Imagine if you will a leisurely, late summer picnic at a small park near the river, a spot popular with the locals, yet not too busy on this particular afternoon. While the carne asada slowly cooks on the barbecue you, the Mrs. and one of your friends are relaxing in your lounge chairs enjoying a cold cerveza, watching the kids play along the bank. Life is good.
Suddenly your pleasant play day is interrupted by the loud roar of an air boat approaching from up river. Directly in front of the park the boat slows near a man in the water about 40 yards away. As the boat approaches the man immediately turns and begins swimming back towards shore. The boat quickly circles the swimmer creating a large wake, making it difficult for him to tread water, then pulls up beside him. You can see one of the two men on board using a long boat hook to try and pull the man from the water. The swimmer does all he can to avoid the hook and is shouting at them to just leave him alone. Still the men on the boat try to snag him from the water.
By this time about 20 people including several children have gathered near the river bank. Many are shouting at the boatmen to leave the swimmer alone. Suddenly the second boatmen turns toward the crowd, drops to one knee, levels and sets his M-4 carbine to semiautomatic mode, aims the weapon in your direction and opens fire. The crowd scatters but not before one man is shot several times as he tries to run for cover. Mortally wounded, he dies a few minutes later as his wife and two young children look on helplessly. Immediately following the shooting the airboat speeds away.
Sounds heinous doesn’t it? Yet the suspected shooter was never charged. In fact the shooting was ruled as justified. You see the river where the shooting occurred is the Rio Grande which winds its way along the southern border of Texas, serving as a natural boundary that separates Mexico and the United States. The small park where the man was shot and killed is located on the Mexico side of the river near Laredo and the shooter who was cleared of wrong doing is a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. The report filed by the two agents states that they were being stoned by the angry crowd standing on shore and fearing for their lives forced to open fire. Witnesses on the beach say otherwise. They say there were no rocks thrown, all they did was yell at the agents nothing more. According to them the agents open fire on them for one reason only, because they can!
Justifiable homicide? Come on, are you kidding me? Even if the people on the bank had been throwing rocks I’m sure there was a more humane ways to deal with the situation? The river is 65 yards wide at the point where the shooting took place so it is possible for someone to chuck a rock out to where the agents were. And a volley of rocks could pose a potential danger to the agents, but enough of a threat that they feared for their lives? I don’t think so. Come on, they were in a speedy wind boat for Godsakes, why didn’t they simply move up or down river until they were out of range? Or were they so intent on getting the lone swimmer, (who they believed was trying to illegally cross over into the U.S.) out of the water that shooting at the crowd was their best option? If that’s the case the border patrol must have the same motto as the Royal Canadian Mounties who “always get there man.” In this particular case however the swimmer got away and made it back to Mexico, but on the agent’s scorecard the dead Mexican probably made up for it.
I don’t understand why border agents can’t use less lethal weapons in rock throwing situations? What about firing a few rounds over their heads first, or using rubber bullets or bean bags? Better yet what about mounting a couple of water cannons on their boats? A water cannon has a quite a range. From mid river and beyond they would pack quite a punch on those standing on the river bank. But then deterrents like these would make too much sense. Besides you get much quicker results using a high powered carbine. The agency has stated that it considers rocks as deadly weapons and an agent under fire of a deadly weapon can and will return fire. Since 2006 there have been 85 reported shootings from rock throwing incidents. Yeah, it sure sounds like it’s open season on Mexicans down along our southern border, especially those packing rocks.
And since when do U.S. Border Patrol Agents have the authority to fire shots into Mexico? I had no idea that agents could arbitrarily fire rounds into Mexico. You’d think it would cause some sort of International incident or something. The Mexican Government has protested these cross border shootings and demanded action against this illegal use of force but it’s been two years since this particular killing and still nothing has been done. Something’s got to change and soon.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not condone illegal entry into our country. I know that our southern border must be constantly patrolled to apprehend those who try to enter illegally and as a deterrent to others from attempting entry. I also know that it’s a war zone along particular stretches of the border where armed members of the drug cartel are actively engaging in smuggling drugs into our country and open fire on agents frequently. I understand the need for our border agents to be armed and at the ready. What I don’t condone is the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that in this particular case there were women and children on the shore and the agent singled out one individual on the Mexico side of the border who was supposedly throwing rocks at him and shot the man not once but three times, killing him. Wouldn’t one shot have made the point. The man was down after being hit in the knee, everyone else was running for cover. Was there really a need for the agent to fire two more rounds into him? I think not. In the meantime if you happen to be along the Rio Grande anytime soon, don’t skip stones on the water it may be taken as an act of aggression.