San Diego

‘My Husband's Life Does Not Have a Price': Wife of Man Slain in Border Patrol Custody in 2010

A federal judge approved a $1 million legal settlement for the family of a man killed in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody in 2010.

Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, 42, suffered a heart attack following a physical altercation with CBP agents that was subdued when officers deployed a stun gun, according to the Justice Department.

“My husband’s life does not have a price,” Hernandez-Rojas’ wife Maria Puga said Thursday through an interpreter. “This was a decision that had to be taken. It was difficult, but we had to turn the page.”

The moment Hernandez-Rojas was killed was captured on cell-phone video by two pedestrians on a now non-existent pedestrian bridge above where his skirmish with CBP agents took place. It has not been released, but his family hopes that the release of supplemental footage will send a message nationwide.

Four minutes of security camera footage from the San Ysidro Port of Entry released by the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) shows Hernandez-Rojas in CBP agent custody moments before his death.

The footage was released Thursday by the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

The SBCC says the video shows agents pushing Hernandez-Rojas against a wall, kicking his feet and denying him medical assistance when he requested it.

In 2015, the Justice Department decided not to file charges against the 12 CBP agents involved in the incident, despite the use of a taser on Hernandez-Rojas while he was handcuffed and on the ground in fetal position, according to Iredale.

“My feeling is that it’s an embarrassment,” Puga said. “It’s an embarrassment that this agency continues to have those 12 agents working. Those agents that killed my husband.”

Puga’s family attorney said that the quality of the video recorded on cell phones of the time is not that good, but you can hear Hernandez-Rojas plea for help and compassion.

“[The witness video] is not really good video because the lighting conditions were such that you can’t see that much,” Attorney Eugene Iredale said. “You can only hear the words of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas saying over and over again, ‘Ayudame, por favor. Ayudame.’ (Help me, please. Help me.) and then ‘No me trates como un animal.’ (Don’t treat me like an animal.)”

“We’ve always known that they are guilty, and that they are the murderers of my husband,” Puga said. “We hope that with this phase we are able to strike them and expose how corrupt this agency has been for many years.”

Pedro Rios, President of the U.S.-Mexico Border Program for the American Friends Service Committee, says the persistence from Puga and her family was not in vain.

Rios says that the CBP’s Use of Force Manual has been made available to the public, which has never been the case in its 90 years of existence.

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