Coroner: Stun gun use on Mexican at border ruled homicide
Cause of death was a heart attack, coroner said
By Elliot Spagat
SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County coroner ruled Wednesday that the death of a Mexican migrant at the U.S. border was a homicide, five days after an American immigration officer shot him with a stun gun.
The cause of death was determined to be a heart attack, with methamphetamine abuse and hypertension listed as contributing factors.
Anastacio Hernandez, 32, was shocked with a stun gun fired by a Customs and Border Protection officer Friday night at the San Ysidro border crossing that separates San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, said San Diego police Capt. Jim Collins. Hernandez had wrestled two Border Patrol agents to the ground after his handcuffs were removed, police said.
The medical examiner's office said Hernandez died Saturday, about 21 hours after the clash. Collins said Hernandez was declared brain-dead Saturday and his family removed him from life support Monday.
Results of the police investigation will be sent to federal prosecutors, who will determine if criminal charges are filed, Collins said.
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department has condemned the use of force against Hernandez.
The head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement promised a federal investigation. John Morton, an assistant Homeland Security secretary, told reporters Wednesday in Mexico City that he is concerned about the case and regrets what he called a tragic death.
Collins said Hernandez attacked the Border Patrol agents after they escorted him out of a van and prepared to return him to Mexico. The agents radioed for help.
One agent, apparently from ICE, struck Hernandez with a baton, Collins said. The CBP officer then shocked Hernandez with the stun gun. Hernandez stopped breathing and showed no pulse.
Relatives told the American Friends Service Committee that Hernandez was deported May 25 after being stopped for a traffic violation in San Diego, said Christian Ramirez, national coordinator of the group's Project Voice immigration reform campaign.
He then returned to the U.S. illegally through the rugged mountains east of San Diego with his younger brother, who had also been deported, Ramirez said. They were arrested by the Border Patrol on Friday afternoon.
Hernandez came to the U.S. when he was 14, followed by four brothers, and all of them work construction jobs, Ramirez said. He has mostly lived in the San Diego area with his wife of 21 years and five U.S.-born children.
Relatives say Hernandez was 42 years old and that he spells his first name Anastasio, according to Ramirez.
Hernandez's cousin, Veronica Hernandez, appeared at a news conference with migrant activists who said the death was a result of a failed immigration system. She said the family had not decided on burial plans.
"He was a happy man, a joker," she said. "He worked hard, too hard."
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