SAN DIEGO — Authorities Wednesday charged an Imperial Beach man with first-degree murder in the shooting of a 12-year-old Mexican boy as the youth walked with his family along a border hillside on the U.S. side.
The death in May of Emilio Jimenez Bejines is one of a number of homicides along the U.S.-Mexican border this year that led the presidents of both Mexico and the United States to condemn the growing violence.
The suspect, Dwight Ray Pannel, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen, was arrested Wednesday at his home and was being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He was also charged in several robberies and an assault case involving illegal aliens earlier on the day of the murder.
Shortly before he allegedly fired the shot, according to a witness quoted in court papers, Pannel said, "Let's shoot some aliens." He then fired a .30-caliber hunting rifle toward a hillside where many immigrants had gathered, the witness told investigators. Pannel allegedly fired from the rear balcony of the home of a friend who lives about half a mile north of the international boundary, in an area regularly traversed by migrants headed north.
Luis Aragon, the deputy San Diego district attorney who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on a motive for the May 18 shooting.
The boy died of a single .30-caliber gunshot wound to the head. He, two siblings and an uncle had crossed the border about 1 1/2 hours earlier on their way to Emilio's parents' home in the Orange County community of Stanton.
The dead boy's father is a legal U.S. resident under the amnesty program, but the dead boy was not, nor are the two siblings and their mother, according to family members.
The Jimenez family is one of thousands divided by immigration status since 1986, when the amnesty provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act provided the possibility of legal residence for many, but in some cases left relatives of the newly legalized without papers.
"We've suffered enough from this," the boy's father, Ernesto Jimenez, said on Wednesday. "All we want is justice."