U.S. Border Patrol Guns Down Mexican Teen In “Law-Free Zone”

Sergio Hernández Guereca, 15, was one of four Mexican boys playing in the dry bed of the Rio Grande, which separates Juárez, Mexico from El Paso, preceding a grave turn of events in June 2010. The group of friends reportedly dared each other to touch the barbed wire of the American border fence before Jesus Mesa Jr., an American boarder guard, spotted them.

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The game turned deadly once Mesa shot Sergio in the head, an act that instantly took his life—yet not before the teen successfully crossed back over into his country. The resulting case, Hernández v. Mesa, has since pointed to a gray area that leaves room for much concern as one of at least 67 shootings that occurred at the U.S. border between 2010 and 2012.

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The New York Times reports that, as of last week, the Supreme Court has agreed to determine whether Sergio’s parents may sue Mesa for violating the Constitution through use of excessive force, but lawyers for the Hernández family argue Sergio would have died in “a unique no-man’s land—a law-free zone in which U.S. agents can kill innocent civilians with impunity” in the event that Mesa is not held accountable by U.S. law.

The Obama administration suggested that Mexican courts should exercise their jurisdiction over events that happen in their country but refused to extradite Mesa after Mexican authorities charged him with murder. Sergio would have been protected had he been killed in the United States or an American citizen.

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As the trial awaits review, Mesa’s lawyers are working to urge the Supreme Court to reconsider by referencing a FBI statement that suggests he was justified in his use of excessive force since Sergio had thrown rocks at him, but there seems to be no evidence of the matter.

Although the Justice Department did not accuse Sergio of doing so upon investigation, and cell phone videos of the event do not back Mesa’s claims, the NYT says “the factual dispute over whether the use of deadly force was justified is legally irrelevant” at this present time.

“The case is at an early stage, and the justices must credit the version of events offered by Sergio’s parents. They must assume that Mr. Mesa shot an unarmed boy who posed no threat to him, unprovoked and for no good reason,” Adam Litpack wrote. “The question for the Supreme Court is a legal one. It is whether the border, as the brief for Sergio’s parents put it, is ‘an on/off switch for the Constitution’s protections against the unreasonable use of deadly force.'”

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