A U.S. federal court revealed the names of a dozen border agents involved in the death of Mexican migrant over three years ago.
The judge’s order to lift the protective order was issued as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Anastasio Hernández Rojas.
In May 2010, the 42-year-old was in the process of being deported via the San Ysidro-Tijuana border post when he was beaten by agents with batons and was fired upon with Taser electronic guns. Hernández subsequently suffered a heart attack and loss of oxygen to the brain, which led to his death five days after the incident.
Two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, six Border Patrol agents, and four Customs and Border Protection officers were identified as being involved in the altercation with Hernández. An attorney for one of the men named in the lawsuit, Customs and Border Protection officer Jerry Vales, said that his client reacted after Hernández resisted detention.
"Hernandez's violence escalated after the initial five-second tase, as he kicked at officers as many as a dozen times and landed kicks to Officer (Vales') upper body," according to a motion filed in the lawsuit.
Yet an eyewitness who videotaped the altercation with a cell phone and said that Hernández was cooperating with officers despite being assaulted upon. (Portions of that recording can be viewed in the YouTube video at the top of this post).
Other points of contention include whether Hernández tried to escape from custody and if the traces of meth coroners found in his body may have contributed to his death.
For one of the lawyers involved in the civil case, the judge’s actions are an important step forward in the case:
Sean Riordan, a staff attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, represented the human rights group Southern Border Communities Coalition, which fought to get the names released.
"Justice can really only operate as a mechanism for accountability if it is transparent," said Riordan.
"Part of the problem with groups concerned with human rights in the border region is, there hasn't been transparency in these investigations."
"If civil litigation turns out to be the only way to create transparency, then that's an important venue for the public to be able to learn more about what actually happens in these incidents," said Riordan.So far criminal charges have not been brought up against the accused in the civil lawsuit though the U.S. Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether the use of force was justified against Hernández.
Video Source– YouTube via user Grillonautas2
Online Sources – 760 KFMB AM; Milenio