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Killing Suspect Held on Robbery Charges : Crime: A man arrested in the death of a 12-year-old boy is accused instead of some bow-and-arrow robberies.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is insufficient evidence to file murder charges against a suspect in the shooting death of a 12-year-old boy along the U.S.-Mexico border, prosecutors said Tuesday, but authorities instead accused the man of the bow-and-arrow robberies of two groups of undocumented immigrants.

The robberies--committed within 10 minutes of each other in March and involving a total of seven victims--are not connected to the murder case, said Luis Aragon, the deputy district attorney who is handling the case.

The accused, Leonard Paul Cuen, 21, whose family home is on San Diego’s Monument Road, about a quarter-mile north of the international boundary, is still considered a suspect in the slaying of the boy, who was traveling to Orange County, according to the district attorney’s office, which contends that the fatal shot was fired from the Cuen home.

Coincidentally, Aragon said, the homicide investigation yielded evidence linking Cuen to the robberies.

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But Aragon explained that “insufficient evidence” currently exists to prevent the filing of homicide charges against Cuen, who was taken into custody and booked on suspicion of murder a few hours after the May 18 killing. Homicide investigators are still evaluating witness statements and awaiting ballistic results. Aragon, however, left open the possibility that Cuen could be charged with the killing after further investigation.

“Right now, our task is to find out what exactly happened on May 18, what caused the death of this 12-year-old boy, and who caused the death,” Aragon said during an impromptu news conference held in the county courthouse.

Cuen was formally arrested Tuesday on robbery and assault charges. He was being held Tuesday night in lieu of $45,000 bail in the San Diego County Jail.

Still publicly unaddressed by authorities is the critical issue of whether the shooting was accidental or deliberate. Police told family members that Cuen contends that he may have been target shooting when a bullet went astray and killed the youth, according to an account provided by the victim’s uncle, Emilio Bejines Gomez.

The deputy district attorney said that authorities have recovered a weapon--a .30-caliber rifle that allegedly belonged to Cuen--and also have the bullet that pierced the skull of 12-year-old Emilio Eusebio Jimenez Bejines, killing him instantly.

The boy, his uncle and two siblings were entering the United States illegally enroute to his parents’ home in Stanton when he was gunned down at midday on a bluff about 350 yards south of Cuen’s home, which is directly in the path of a constant stream of clandestine border-crossers.

There is an unobstructed line of fire between the rear of Cuen’s home and the slaying site. Family members accompanying the boy said in interviews with The Times last week that they heard three shots ring out without warning and saw Emilio fall to the ground, although none saw the assailant.

The dead boy’s uncle, Bejines, 22, said that police had told him that a number of witnesses had seen at least one person, possibly more, shooting from the rear of the Cuen family home on the day of the killing. Police have declined to provide additional details.

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The case and other recent instances of violence directed at Mexican citizens in California has received extensive press coverage in Mexico, where the reports have fed a widespread perception that expatriate workers in the United States are subject to abuse, prejudice--and, often, racist-motivated violence. Just last week, the Mexican Foreign Ministry, reacting to the boy’s slaying and other violent incidents, issued a statement citing the “racist current that affects some areas of California.”


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