The widow of a man that died as U.S. Border Patrol agents stood by at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010 said at a press conference Tuesday that justice still has not been served nearly five years after her husband’s death.
Maria Puga said her husband, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a longtime San Diego resident, was beaten, shot with a taser and killed by more than a dozen Customs and Border Protection agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on May 28, 2010.
Puga and their children filed a civil lawsuit in March 2011, alleging that the agents killed her husband at the Port of Entry and violated his constitutional rights. The Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death a homicide. A witness at the time recorded the incident and once it came out two years later, the video became national news.
"It’s been nearly five years of wait, and it’s been nearly five years of hopelessness, of despair," said Puga through Christian Ramirez of Alliance San Diego, who translated her words from spanish during the press conference.
A grainy and dark video captured on Humberto Navarrete's cell phone shows a man, who Navarette says is Rojas, yell for help as U.S. Border Patrol agents attempt to subdue him.
Hernandez was being removed from the country at the San Ysidro Port of Entry when he resisted and was eventually shot with a Taser stun gun, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In the video, Navarrete asks a U.S. agent nearby why they’re using “excessive force.” The agent replies that it appears he’s not cooperating.
Hernandez died of a heart attack after the attack. According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, the 42-year old had methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death.
Since the time of the lawsuit, Puga said, the government has filed a motion to keep the identities of the agents secret, filed a motion to indefinitely stay the discovery process until criminal proceedings concluded, and filed a motion for summary judgment to throw the case out. The judge denied all motions and, in the last one, found the video from the incident was sufficient evidence to establish the violations alleged in the case. A Grand Jury investigation on the matter has been pending for three years, activists said.
At a press briefing Tuesday, activists from Alliance San Diego and the Southern Border Communities Coalition expressed frustration at the delays in the trial. Ramirez said despite the fact that the CBP has engaged in "meaningful dialogue," they are still "light years" away from making the agency more transparent.
Andrea Guerrero of Alliance San Diego said as the five year anniversary approaches, one thing to keep in mind is the statute of limitations. After the five year mark, a number of charges can be dropped, including murder.
"We are tired of it," Guerrero said of the delays in the trial. "The family is tired of it."
The Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into the case after the incident occurred, but nearly five years later, criminal proceedings are still pending.
"The videos speak for themselves," Puga said through a translator. "We should not be afraid. Folks should come forward to make sure we hold this agency accountable."
The government recently filed an appeal before the case reaches trial, according to Puga, and in the past has tried to obstruct and delay court proceedings.
In a statement, the CBP said, "In order to preserve due process CBP cannot comment on pending litigation cases."