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Investigator: Marines waited 22 minutes to help teen-ager
The Detroit News June 21, 1997

By Eduardo Montes / Associated Press Writer
Copyright 1997, The Detroit News

EL PASO, Texas -- Marines who fatally shot a teen-ager on the Texas-Mexico border waited 22 minutes before giving first aid or calling for help, the head of the investigation said Friday.

Texas Ranger David Duncan also said that 20 minutes elapsed between the time Ezequiel Hernandez Jr. allegedly shot at a military surveillance team and the time a Marine returned fire. Duncan said evidence gathered so far is raising questions about the military's self-defense explanation for the May 20 shooting in the hills 200 miles southeast of El Paso.

Military officials say a member of the four-man team shot Hernandez after the teen-ager had fired twice at the Marines, who were watching a suspected drug route at the request of the Border Patrol. The military maintains the 18-year-old Hernandez had raised his .22-caliber rifle for a third shot when the Marine opened fire.

Duncan said he didn't know if the delay in medical aid might have played a role in Hernandez's death. The Rangers have not yet received a copy of the autopsy report.

An ambulance was finally requested when the Border Patrol and a sheriff's deputy arrived on the scene.

Investigators have obtained subpoenas for three officials with Joint Task Force Six, a Fort Bliss-based military agency that coordinates anti-drug missions involving the armed forces and civilian authorities. Agency spokeswoman Maureen Bossch said officials are ready to cooperate but have not received subpoenas.

On Friday, a month after the shooting, demonstrators in Washington and El Paso protested military patrols on the border. A group of people stood across the street from the Immigration and Naturalization Service headquarters in Washington holding a banner that read: "Stop the violence at the border. Remember Ezequiel Hernandez."

"The military has a role to play, but it's not to police U.S. citizens," said the Rev. Bill Morton at a protest outside the El Paso federal building.

The U.S. House approved a measure Friday that could station up to 10,000 U.S. troops along the Mexican border to help stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Also Friday, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Mexico's Foreign Secretary Angel Gurria announced a campaign aimed at making the international border safer. The Tijuana-San Diego border is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for U.S. Border Patrol agents, who have been fired upon in recent weeks by gunmen on the Mexico side of the international line. The committee on public safety will focus on cross-border violence in the San Diego-Tijuana region, exchanging information and evidence in investigations.

This article copyright 1997 the Detroit News and is reproduced for non-profit educational purposes only.

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