06/25/2010

Teen shot by Border Patrol was wanted smuggler

Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka was among El Paso's most wanted juveniles with at least four arrests since 2008

By Alicia A. Caldwell
Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas — A 15-year-old Mexican boy shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent was among El Paso's most wanted juvenile immigrant smugglers, according to federal arrest records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The records show Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereka had been arrested at least four times since 2008 and twice in the same week in February 2009 on suspicion of smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Hernandez was repeatedly arrested along the U.S. side of the border near downtown El Paso, not far from where he was killed, but was never charged with a crime by federal prosecutors.

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed Hernandez June 7 while trying to arrest illegal immigrants crossing the muddy bed of the Rio Grande. Some witnesses said a group of people on the Mexican side were throwing rocks at the agents. Agents are generally permitted to use lethal force against rock throwers.

The records show that in at least one case Hernandez was to be paid $50 a person for smuggling four people into the U.S.

The records also show that in one case, federal prosecutors declined to charge Hernandez because there were no "extenuating circumstances or endangerment."

Border Patrol officials have declined to comment on his criminal record, citing an ongoing FBI investigation into whether the shooting was justified under Border Patrol rules and whether the agent, who remains unidentified, violated Hernandez's civil rights.

FBI Special Agent William Weiss also declined to comment Friday.

Mexican authorities have called the killing a murder and some demanded that the agent be extradited to Mexico to face criminal charges. U.S. officials have said that is highly unlikely.

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