Consulate says it ‘regrets’ shooting death of Mexican national at border

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SAN DIEGO — Families visited a spot along the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday to lay flowers for a man killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

The Mexican government issued a statement Sunday expressing regret over Friday’s shooting death of one of its citizens near the U.S. port of entry in San Ysidro. The office of the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego said it issued the statement on behalf of the Mexican government.

“The Mexican government regrets the use of lethal force against a Mexican national and will follow up on his death at the hands of federal immigration authorities,” the statement said.

San Diego homicide detectives are investigating the shooting, which occurred close to the international border near the Las Americas Premium Outlets mall on Camino De La Plaza at 5:45 p.m. Friday, according to Aaron Heitke, chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector.

Paramedics pronounced the suspect dead at 6:25 p.m., Heitke said.

The man was involved in an altercation with the agent on federal property, but it was unclear what prompted it, Lt. Andra Brown of the San Diego Police Department told reporters at the scene.

“During the arrest, an altercation ensued and the agent discharged his firearm, wounding the man, who was later identified as an adult Mexican national,” Heitke said.

“Nearby agents and law enforcement personnel responded immediately and initiated lifesaving efforts until emergency medical services arrived,” Heitke said.

The statement from the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego said it “has taken action to guarantee due process in this case, in light of the fact that the family members of the victim have not been located as of today.”

The consulate said the San Diego Police Department will be in charge of the investigation, “even though the agents responsible for this incident are Border Patrol officers.”

“In an unfortunate coincidence, this incident follows another one reported on October 19, in which Mexican national Jose Alfredo Castro Gutierrez lost his life in an altercation with San Diego police officers,” the consulate said. “The Mexican government, through the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego, is following both cases closely and has requested local authorities to conduct (expeditious,) impartial and transparent investigations to establish the facts and determine where responsibilities lie.”

“Based on this information, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs will determine the diplomatic and legal measures to be undertaken in defense of our Mexican nationals,” the statement said. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs deeply regrets the death of the Mexican national and reiterates its absolute commitment to the defense and protection of Mexican nationals abroad.”

Brown, of the SDPD, said Saturday, “As with any officer or agent- involved shooting that occurs in the city of San Diego, the San Diego Police Homicide Unit was called to the scene to conduct the investigation. It is still early in the investigation, but preliminary information is that the male, a Mexican national, attempted to enter the United States illegally and was confronted by a Border Patrol agent.”

Brown said the man fought with the agent, who received minor injuries during the incident.

“The agent fired his duty weapon, striking the male once in the torso,” Brown said.

The man has been identified, but his name was not immediately released. Neither was the Border Patrol agent’s name immediately released.

“The investigation and review process for an agent-involved shooting are extremely thorough,” Brown said. “The U.S. Border Patrol is cooperating with the investigation.”

When the homicide unit completes their independent investigation, it will be reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Brown said.

“Customs and Border Protection will continue to fully cooperate with this ongoing investigation,” Heitke said. “The specifics of this incident have been shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, office of the inspector general, along with the Office of Professional Responsibility.”

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