On May 28, 2010, a longtime resident of San Diego, Anastasio Hernández Rojas,was brutally beaten, shot repeatedly with a Taser and killed by border patrol agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. As happens these days, eyewitnesses recorded the incident and eventually came forward. The video became part of a show by PBS called Need to Know. I remember writing about this intentional murder and speaking against it, but no one was ever brought to trial.
The video showed at least a dozen officers surrounding a handcuffed man on the ground while he was beaten and shot with a Taser five times. You could hear his voice pleading in Spanish, Por el amor de Dios, alguien ayúdeme (For the love of God, someone help me).
The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide and experts described the incident as torture. If you see the video, as I saw it in the PBS special, you don’t need an expert’s opinion because it is so clearly torture… His screams for mercy have peopled my nightmares for several years. And border patrol agents did their best to confiscate and destroy video footage; people in fact released the videos under strict promises of anonymity, because threats are always powerful in communities that have immigrant members.
But Anastasio is not the first nor will he be the last man killed, either in the US, in our prisons, or in other border towns. As result of advocacy, around this issue 16 members of Congress sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security, the Inspector General and the Department of Justice, prompting further investigation. But now, the DOJ has stated they will not be prosecuting anyone.
The report from the DOJ is here: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/federal-officials-close-investigation-death-anastasio-hernandez-rojas, but the video aired by PBS is here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/video/video-web-exclusive-grand-jury-to-investigate-death-at-the-border/14290/
Despite the legal language, anyone who sees the video will come to the same conclusion the Medical Examiner came to: this death was a homicide. And border patrol agents continue to rape, torture and kill our people, with impunity.
Impunity is the bane of freedom and the bane of justice. And it occurs because, to paraphrase Rhett Butler, people quite frankly “don’t give a damn.” We dare not call ourselves human beings when we fail to take action for our brothers and sisters, anywhere in the world, who are being raped, tortured or kill, whether in Ferguson or in San Ysidro or in Palestine or in Colombia.
I ask you, please, today, to give a damn. Let us prosecute the Department of Justice by petitioning, marching, uniting. This wave of criminal behavior has to stop, and it has to stop here and now, but that will not happen unless we ALL mobilize and say, “NOT IN MY NAME!”