10/08/2010

Drug suspect shot after struggle with Border Patrol agent

Associated Press

EAGLE PASS, Texas — A U.S. Border Patrol agent tipped off that a pickup truck was carrying a suspicious payload shot and killed the teenage driver, who was apparently unarmed, after a brief struggle, authorities said Friday.

Juan Mendez, an 18-year-old from Eagle Pass, died at Fort Duncan Medical Center shortly after the Tuesday shooting, Maverick County Chief Deputy Sheriff Ruben Cano said.

Border Patrol sensors showed that the truck Mendez was driving was carrying suspicious cargo, Cano said. Witnesses said an agent, whose identity has not been disclosed, stopped the vehicle shortly after 9 a.m. and began to question Mendez, he said.

A 15-year-old boy fled from truck fled, and Mendez also tried to get away but briefly struggled with the agent, Cano said. Mendez broke free and the agent shot him twice, the chief deputy said. No evidence was found that Mendez was armed, he said.

Investigators found 325 pounds of marijuana in the truck, Cano said.

The 15-year-old was taken into juvenile custody. His name and charges were being withheld because of his age.

Border Patrol agents are allowed to use lethal force under certain circumstances, and investigators from the FBI, the Texas Rangers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection internal affairs department are looking into the incident, Cano said.

Dennis Smith, the Border Patrol's spokesman in Del Rio, did not immediately respond to a phone message Friday seeking comment.

The incident is the second deadly shooting of an unarmed teen by Border Patrol in four months. A Border Patrol agent in El Paso shot and killed a 15-year-old Mexican boy on June 7. Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca was among a group of people in the bed of the Rio Grande who were throwing rocks at the agents.

The agent who shot Hernandez in June was not charged with a crime because lethal force is permitted to deter rock-throwers. However, the Hernandez shooting enraged Mexicans. Authorities there called it a murder and demanded he be extradited to face charges there. The request was denied.

Mendez's body has been sent to Laredo for an autopsy.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press

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