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Mexico Makes 2nd Protest on Border Shooting of Boy

Times Staff Writer

The Mexican government has delivered a second diplomatic note to the U.S. State Department protesting the April 18 shooting of a 12-year-old boy on Mexican soil by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, officials said Friday.

“We consider this a very grave matter,” said Agustin Gutierrez, chief spokesman for the Mexican Foreign Ministry. “The United States has sought to downplay its importance, but we believe it transcends the run-of-the-mill border incidents.”

A diplomatic note is an official means of communication between governments.

Gutierrez said it was “extraordinary” for a government to send two such notes but that it was necessary, because the incident remains unresolved.

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“The fact of the matter is that no American, no Cuban, no Russian--no one--has any right to fire at a Mexican citizen within Mexican territory, and this is precisely what occurred here,” Gutierrez maintained. “This is the issue, the real issue, and the United States has refused to recognize it.”

The victim of the shooting, Humberto Carrillo Estrada, a resident of a Tijuana barrio called La Libertad, was shot after he allegedly threw rocks at Border Patrol agents who had arrested his 15-year-old brother.

At the time of the incident, Humberto was standing inside Mexican territory, just beyond a fence dividing the United States and Mexico. Border Patrol agents on the other side of the fence had detained his brother, Eduardo.

According to the Mexican version of events, Eduardo had crossed through a gap in the fence earlier to go to a fast-food restaurant to buy a hamburger. When he saw Border Patrol agents approaching, he tried to run back into Mexico but was caught just as he reached the fence.

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His cries for help attracted his younger brother and other residents of La Libertad. The brother, Humberto, threw two rocks at the Border Patrol agents, Gutierrez said. One of the agents, Edward D. (Ned) Cole, responded by firing at Humberto, who was standing on the Mexican side of the fence.

The child was hit by one bullet. He was flown by medical helicopter to a San Diego hospital and has since recovered.

Cole was shifted to office duties but was exonerated of criminal wrongdoing by the district attorney.

The first Mexican protest note, delivered April 24, asked for compensation for the child and punishment of Cole. The State Department responded on May 20 with a note saying Cole had been exonerated, because he had acted in defense of a fellow agent threatened by the rock-throwing.

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The Mexican government responded with a second note on Wednesday. Like the first note, it raised the question of indemnity and punishment of Cole. It also asked that “the United States recognize its responsibility in this and other incidents of the same nature, which involve another sovereign nation,” Gutierrez said.

The Mexican diplomat said this meant that the United States must acknowledge that “the Border Patrol has no right to fire against Mexicans standing on Mexican territory.”

He also suggested that an official apology was in order.

“All we have (from the United States) is this note saying Cole was acting in defense of his partner, which is a ridiculous argument,” Gutierrez insisted.

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“The child threw two rocks over the fence, and they shot him,” he said. “That’s absolutely abusive, and it also happens to be a serious international incident.”

State Department officials in Washington declined to discuss the issue, but they acknowledged receipt of the two Mexican notes. One official pointed out that a lawsuit had been filed in San Diego County against the Border Patrol on behalf of the wounded child.

Gutierrez acknowledged that the lawsuit had been filed and said Mexican authorities recognized that this was a way of settling the issue of compensation.

“But that does not resolve the larger issue,” Gutierrez contended. “The United States must recognize that its agents cannot shoot at Mexicans on Mexican territory, and those who do so, must be punished.”

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