Column: Maybe we should thank Mexico for intercepting that armed ex-Marine

Ex-Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, left, is being held at Tijuana's La Mesa Penitentiary.
Ex-Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, left, is being held at Tijuana’s La Mesa Penitentiary.
(Alejandro Tamayo / AP)

What authority in his or her right mind would fail to take serious action in the case of a young man who claimed to have accidentally crossed an international border with three loaded guns and enough ammo to take out an entire town square? What authority in his or her right mind would simply say, “OK, son. You made a mistake. Take your loaded rifle, your loaded shotgun, your loaded pistol and your 400 rounds of ammo and get the heck out of here.”

Come on, people.

Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, the former Marine sergeant who has been in a Mexican prison since March 31 while Mexican authorities investigate whether he violated that country’s strict gun laws, may be lucky he got busted. This incident will allow him to receive the intervention he clearly needs.

After all, his mother, who is a nurse, has told reporters that her son has post-traumatic stress disorder, that he has shown symptoms of paranoia and that he has what she called “hunter-prey syndrome” in which he feels he is the prey.


How fervently do we wish that the Santa Barbara deputy sheriffs who checked up on Elliott Rodger after a call from his worried mother had tried to discern whether Rodger owned weapons, legal or not? How fervently do we fantasize that his grotesque rampage might never had occurred had only a deputy or two been more suspicious, more invasive, more hard-ass about whether the kid had weapons?

It can’t possibly be pleasant to be imprisoned in Mexico--or downtown Los Angeles, for that matter--but according to Ariel Moutsatsos-Morales, the Mexican Embassy’s minister for public affairs in Washington, Tahmooressi’s “fundamental rights have been respected, including the rights to due process and personal integrity.” (And dare I say, this is a Marine who did two tours in Afghanistan. Are such Americans not among our toughest?)

“It is worth noting that upon his entry into the prison at La Mesa,” Moutsatso-Morales wrote in a statement released Friday, “Mr. Tahmooressi demonstrated violent behavior, twice attempting to escape and suffering self-inflicted wounds, which led him to be placed in the infirmary. From that point on, he has been under constant medical watch and in good health.” He was also transferred from a prison to Tijuana to one in Tecate, where he is faring better, according to his mother.

The Mexico attorney general’s office, said Moutsatsos-Morales, “rejects any assertion of mistreatment of Mr. Tahmooressi as baseless.”

Though Tahmooressi was scheduled to go before a judge on Wednesday, he fired his defense attorneys. His hearing was postponed and has not been rescheduled.

Partisans are out there yammering about how President Obama should bully the Mexican government into ignoring its own laws and release Tahmooressi. Or about how Obama is a hypocrite because he won’t swoop in for Tahmooressi, but saved Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, whom they have convicted of desertion without the slightest proof.


But they should know that while Bergdahl was held virtually incommunicado as a prisoner of war for five years, Tahmooressi has received more than 50 visits in fewer than 10 weeks of confinement.

According to Mexican officials, he has been visited by American consular officials eight times, defense attorneys seven times, his pastor 30 times, his mother twice, a psychiatrist once, reporters for one Mexican newspaper and one American newspaper, and Arizona U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon. Also, he was permitted to give a long telephone interview to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. And State Department officials have said they are “closely monitoring” the case.

No one is impugning Tahmooressi’s service to his country--his two tours of duty in Afghanistan, nor his meritorious promotion to sergeant—by suggesting that Mexican laws should be respected here. You can be a hero and still screw up. Tahmooressi will have his day in court.

That’s not just the American way. It’s the Mexican way as well.

Twitter: @robinabcarian