SAN DIEGO — The Mexican national seriously wounded along the international border was moved by ambulance Thursday to a San Diego hospital, where his American wife charged that he had been shot in the back by U.S. Border Patrol agents who mistakenly believed that he was throwing rocks at them.
Juana Mendez Pulido said her husband was shot from behind Monday night as he and two friends ran back into Mexico near the Otay Mesa crossing after hearing a loud commotion between Border Patrol officers on the U.S. side and a van full of Latinos south of the border.
She said her husband told her that the Latinos threw rocks at the agents and that the agents responded by firing three rounds across the border. In the melee, she said, her husband, Ignacio Mendez Pulido, was shot in the left side of the back, the bullet penetrating his spinal column.
Embassy Filed Complaint
The shooting has prompted the Mexican Embassy in Washington, urged on by officials from the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, to file a complaint with the State Department.
"We are upset and concerned," Leonardo Ffrench, minister of public affairs for the Mexican Embassy, said Thursday. "This is a matter of special concern in that a weapon was fired from the U.S. side of the border against a Mexican citizen who was on Mexican soil."
Ffrench said the complaint urges the United States to conduct a speedy investigation into the shooting and ensure that "those responsible are fully prosecuted and duly penalized."
Also on Thursday, Roberto Martinez, leader of the Coalition for Law and Justice in San Diego, said his group was investigating the shooting.
Less than three years ago, Humberto Carrillo Estrada, a 12-year-old Tijuana youth, was shot after he allegedly threw rocks at Border Patrol agents. In both the Carrillo and Mendez cases, the victims were shot while standing on Mexican territory by Border Patrol agents firing from U.S. soil.
Harold Ezell, Western regional commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Thursday that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility was investigating the latest incident.
Barrage of Rocks
Ezell said the two agents were transporting an illegal alien in their custody when they came under a barrage of rocks thrown at them from the Mexican side. He said the Border Patrol vehicle was seriously damaged and that the illegal alien suffered a broken nose and facial cuts.
He also stressed that the agents fired their weapons in self-defense, and not because they believed that they were being shot at.
"I don't believe our guys said they were under fire," Ezell said Thursday. "But that is something that has to be determined. I don't want to prejudice the investigation."
Jim Turnage, INS district director, said just because Ignacio Mendez was allowed entry into the United States for hospital treatment, that does not mean the U.S. government acknowledges that he was shot by the Border Patrol.