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Juárez police to assist in border areas

Mexican officers will pay close attention to trouble spots to avoid incidents like last week's fatal shooting

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

EL PASO, Tx. — U.S. Border Patrol agents will not work alone in trouble spots which also will be watched closer by Mexican police to prevent more violence after last week's fatal shooting of a Juarez teenager, authorities said Monday.

The mayors of El Paso and Juarez and law enforcement officials met Monday morning to discuss ways to stem problems on the international boundary between the cities.

The meeting at El Paso City Hall took place a week after the death of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, who was shot by a Border Patrol agent allegedly being attacked with rocks while trying to make an arrest on the Rio Grande in Downtown El Paso.

"That rock throwing incident was not what we were focusing on. It was how we keep something like that from happening again," El Paso Mayor John Cook said. "We are trying to be proactive."

The meeting included leaders of the Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Juarez and Chihuahua state police.

The 15-year-old boy's death on the Mexico side of the mostly-dry river near the Paso del Norte Bridge sparked protests, vigils and investigations by the FBI and Mexico's attorney general's office.

Hernandez's family wants the Border Patrol agent tried in Mexico for homicide. The agent's supporters say he was defending himself. The FBI also opened a civil rights inquiry into the shooting.

On Saturday, a demonstration turned violent when Juarez protesters crossed the Rio Grande, threw rocks at the U.S. side and ripped a chain link fence. The Border Patrol, including agents in riot gear, waited nearby but did not confront the protesters. There were no reported injuries.

In a statement, El Paso Sector Border Patrol Chief Agent Randy Hill said he has "instructed his agents to exercise appropriate restraint without compromising personal safety or national security to avoid another incident."

Cook said he was told Border Patrol agents will work in groups at spots known for rock attacks, including Downtown, near the old Asarco plant and Anapra-Sunland Park.

Border Patrol officials said there have been uncorroborated threats of retaliation against agents.

Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said his police will work with the U.S. to add patrols to conflict spots on the border. Reyes said Mexican authorities also will reach out to young people warning them to stay away from the borderline and to not become involved in smuggling or immigrant trafficking.

U.S. federal law enforcement officials said Hernandez was on a list of juveniles who helped sneak immigrants across the border.

Cook said he was told by federal officials there are about 15 other juveniles in the same category as Hernandez. "They have been apprehended a repeat number of times and typically the ones that were involved with human smuggling," he said.

"One of the important things that came out of the meeting was the recognition by Juarez that they have to offer other things to young people to involve people who hang around the bridges," Cook said.

The shooting, captured on cell phone video, gained international attention. There has been heated debate whether the agent was justified in shooting the teenager.

"I think everyone at the table (during the meeting Monday) wants to see cooler heads prevail and give the FBI the opportunity to do their investigation," Cook said.

Copyright 2010 El Paso Times

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