Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp said Saturday he will personally inspect the site where a U.S. border patrolman shot a 12-year-old boy who was on Mexican soil to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
Calling the case “very sensitive,” California’s top elected law enforcement official said he will “know more” after his inspection on Monday whether to ask San Diego County Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller to press charges against Border Patrol Agent Edward D. Cole.
‘All the Facts’
Van de Kamp, speaking to reporters at the annual State Bar convention here, said he plans to visit the scene “to make sure no stone is unturned (and) make sure we have all the facts” before making his recommendation.
In May, after local law enforcement authorities had investigated the April 18 shooting of Humberto Carrillo-Estrada, Miller said there was insufficient evidence to charge Cole, prompting calls from the boy’s family and state legislators for Van de Kamp to look into the case.
The shooting also spawned protests from the Mexican government, which in June called the incident “a very grave matter” that “transcends the run-of-the-mill border incidents.”
Cole said he shot and wounded the boy in self-defense after the youth and a group of Mexicans started throwing rocks over the nine-foot fence that separates the two countries.
Shot in Back
The agent said the rock-throwing began after he and his partner arrested Carrillo-Estrada’s 15-year-old brother as the teen-ager returned to the Mexican side through a hole in the fence a short distance from the San Ysidro crossing.
Humberto Carrillo-Estrada, who was shot in the back, was released from a San Diego hospital a week after the shooting.
“I want to see where people were,” Van de Kamp said. “I want to see locations, the fence, the height, the kinds of rocks that apparently were being thrown . . . as much as possible to get an idea of what was going on. . . .
“I will be somewhat responsible ultimately for what we decide to do in the case. I wanted to give it personal attention.”
Van de Kamp said “it is conceivable” that his office would take over the investigation, but, he added, “usually we do not get involved as a general principle . . . unless there was a significant abuse of discretion (by the district attorney).”
Van de Kamp noted that he intended no criticism of Miller. He explained the visit and his personal involvement by saying: “This is a very sensitive case. I want to make sure we have all the facts out, (and) make sure the D.A. has evaluated those facts. Fortunately, we have a good D.A. here.”
Miller, reached at his home, said he knew of Van de Kamp’s move, adding that the attorney general is visiting the scene “as my guest.”