Photo: Border patrol
A federal appellate court here ruled that a Mexican teenager fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent was protected by the U.S. Constitution despite the fact that he was on Mexican territory at the time of the incident.
The ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in El Paso held that the family of 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Güereca may proceed with their $25 million civil suit over his death in 2010.
U.S. District Judge David Briones earlier had ruled that the boy’s family lacked the right to sue the government because Sergio was on Mexican territory when he was shot.
The appellate court concluded, however, that Briones’ logic would permit Border Patrol agents to establish “zones of lawlessness” and institute “a perverse rule that would treat differently two individuals subject to the same conduct merely because one managed to cross into our territory.”
The family’s original lawsuit named the Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, agent Jesus Mesa and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The 5th Circuit’s decision, which is subject to appeal by all the involved parties, exempts Mesa’s supervisors and the federal agencies from responsibility.
Activists applauded the appellate ruling.
“It pleases us that these judges decided ... in favor of the family,” Jose Manuel Escobedo, the deputy director of the Border Human Rights Network, told Efe.
He said that the decision will serve as a reference point so that in the future no Border Patrol agent may use his weapon in similar circumstances.
On the afternoon of June 7, 2010, agent Mesa fired from U.S. territory into Mexico on at least three occasions, killing Hernandez Güereca.
The incidents occurred in the El Paso sector when the agent was trying to arrest several immigrants who had illegally crossed the border into the United States.
Mesa insisted that he used his weapon because the immigrants attacked him by throwing rocks.