An eyewitness to the June 7 shooting death of a 14-year-old Mexican youth said a U.S. Border Patrol agent took aim at the boy for several seconds after the boy emerged from behind a pillar of a bridge on the Juarez side of the border near El Paso, Texas.
The witness, Juan Raul Flores Cadena, told a human rights coordinator for the government of Chihuahua, Mexico, that the youth, who was identified as Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka, had been part of a group that had earlier tried to run across the border before retreating when U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived.
“One of [the boys] stood by the pillars of the Black Bridge from the Mexican side, between the end of the cement slope and the beginning of the water,” he stated. “He seemed to hide behind a pillar” on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, Flores Cadena said in a statement.
“First, three shots were fired by an American officer in the direction of Mexico. The young man, hiding behind the pillar, poked his head out. One of [the agents] pointed his gun. The boy raised his hands to his chest and the agent took aim for at least four seconds, then shot the young man, who fell immediately.”
Flores Cadena is the second eyewitness to surface since the shooting, which has become an international incident, with Mexican lawmakers calling for the shooter’s extradition to Mexico to be tried for murder. The FBI has also opened up a civil rights investigation into the boy’s killing.
Initially, U.S. authorities claimed that the dead youth was part of an alien-smuggling ring which began hurling rocks at the Border Patrol agent as he detained another youth suspect and that the agent fired in self-defense. However, a cell phone video surfaced that called into question the Border Patrol’s account, prompting the expanded investigations.
Flores Cadena, who gave his statement on June 8, is the second eyewitness who has surfaced since the shooting. His wife, Bobbie McDow, spoke with us earlier this week, describing her perspective on the incident from a footbridge connecting the United States and Mexico.
She also said Border Patrol agents and private security arrived quickly and loudly dispersed the dozens of eyewitnesses without debriefing them. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Witnesses of Border Killing Dispersed.”]
Flores Cadena said he had just walked up the Mexican side of the Paso Del Norte footbridge, that links Ciudad Juarez with El Paso, Texas, and was planning to meet his wife at the flag pole midway and then head back together to Juarez. He said he usually met her at the middle of the span and walked her home.
Before heading back to Juarez, the couple paused at the center of the bridge to take a breather from the heat. At that point, both McDow and Flores Cadena became concerned about a scene unfolding below them at the Rio Grande, near an old black railroad bridge that spans the border.
Armed Border Patrol agents were pursuing several teens who had tried to cross into the United States. The teens then reversed their movement and fled back to Mexico.
“At approximately 6:40 in the afternoon,” Flores Cadena said he “found himself on the top of the Santa Fe bridge by the flag poles, waiting for Bobbie, his wife … when a group of young people passed the border line and entered the streets of El Paso, Texas,” the statement said.
“When border patrol saw them, they began to pursue and surround [the teens] and they detained [one of the boys]. Another was captured by an agent on a bicycle after jumping a fence, all in U.S. Territory…The other boys crossed into Mexico.”
This is when the shooting started, said Flores Cadena.
According to Bobbie McDow, who was standing next to her husband at the time, about 20 Border Patrol agents and private security guards then forcefully dispersed the dozens of eyewitnesses standing with them on the bridge.
At that point, McDow and her husband were very disturbed about what they had seen and wanted to make sure that their account would be recorded. McDow quickly called 911 to give her account of the shooting to a police dispatcher. They were also concerned that all the witnesses were being dispersed instead of spoken to.
McDow told us, “They [border patrol agents] said something to the effect that ‘we have this all covered, that we have cameras and audio, we can see and hear everything.’ My husband said something to the effect of ‘that’s really good because you’re going to see that there was an assassination’.”
As U.S. authorities pull their story together and begin the FBI civil rights investigation, Flores Cadena’s statement will be used to support the Mexican call for the extradition of the Border Patrol agent who shot Hernandez Huereka.
Dennis Bernstein and Jesse Strauss based this report primarily on interviews done for “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the authors at [email protected] and [email protected]