BY ALEJANDRA RINCÓN
HOUSTON - U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced on July 29 that the Pentagon has temporarily suspended so-called antidrug operations along the entire Mexican border.
This decision followed an outraged response to the May 20 killing of 18-year-old high school student Esequiel Hernández by a U.S. Marine in the small community of Redford, Texas, 180 miles southeast of El Paso.
Public protests in El Paso, by the Redford Citizens Committee for Justice, and in other border towns reflected widespread anger over the killing and the increasing militarization of the U.S. border with Mexico. Another incident in January resulted in the wounding of Mexican immigrant at the border.
The decision was announced the same day that a grand jury convened in Marfa, Texas, to consider whether criminal charges should be lodged against Corp. Clemente Banuelos, who shot Hernández, or against any of the other three Marines involved. The Marines said they acted in self- defense after the youth opened fire on them. Redford residents said they only heard one shot, suggesting that Hernández, who was herding his family's goats, never fired his 80-year-old rifle, and the autopsy showed the youth was facing away from the soldiers when he was shot.
The Marines admitted that they stalked the youth for 20 minutes before shooting him. They left him to bleed to death over 22 minutes, refusing to provide medical assistance even though one of them was a trained medic.
The 12-person grand jury, which will reconvene August 12,
includes the Border Patrol's assistant chief agent in Marfa,
a retired Board Patrol agent, and two U.S. Customs Service
officials. None of the grand jurors are from Redford.
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