Web exclusive: Grand jury to investigate death at the border

In May, 2010, a grainy cellphone video captured an eyewitness account of US Customs and Border Protection officers beating Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, an undocumented immigrant who lived and worked in San Diego.

The footage shows Hernandez Rojas on the ground, handcuffed and surrounded by more than a dozen officers who punched, kicked and shocked the Mexican-born father of five with a Taser. Hernandez Rojas can be heard in the background of one video begging for mercy.

Hernandez Rojas succumbed to his injuries a few days later, dying under circumstances the San Diego coroner classified as “homicide.” Despite witnesses who pointed to alleged abuse by Border Patrol, an investigation by San Diego police resulted in no indictments against any of the officers involved.

Two years after the death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, an emotional interview with Andrea Guerrero of Equality Alliance. Edited by Elisabeth Ponsot.

PBS Need to Know with assistance from the Nation Institute produced a groundbreaking report on Hernandez Rojas’ death, which led to greater scrutiny by public officials and other media outlets. Following two years of inaction, a federal grand jury was convened on July 12 to investigate the incident, according to the Associated Press.

Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego who is not working on the Hernandez Rojas case told the AP that “when a prosecutor looks at a case, you can decide no crime has been committed, you close the case and move on. That obviously hasn’t happened in this case. The fact that there’s a grand jury means it has progressed to the next level, if you will.”

Prior to summer reports of a grand jury probe, Need to Know traveled to San Diego to speak with Andrea Guerrero, the Executive Director of the Equality Alliance who has advocated on behalf of Hernandez Rojas’ family since his death.

In the emotional interview, Guerrero expressed frustration with what was then a stagnant case, despite two years of activism. “It seems to me that if we can’t get it right on Anastasio’s case that we’re going to have a hard time getting it right,” she said. “Anastasio’s case is emblematic of what went wrong and it could be emblematic of what we do to fix it.”

How do you feel about the grand jury probe into the death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas? Share your thoughts below.

 

Comments

  • Will

    Immigrants are what make the United States a great nation! I hope these corrupt officers are brought to justice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reynaldo.hernandez.94651 Reynaldo Hernandez

    The way that the Justice Department has been dragging their heels for two years leaves me somewhat distrustful that the grand jury can be trusted to do a clean and thorough investigation   There is clearly a culture of violence and abuse in and by the border patrol, and it would not surprise me if we end up with a whitewash by the Justice Department.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reynaldo.hernandez.94651 Reynaldo Hernandez

    There is clearly a culture of violence and abuse in and by the Border Patrol.  The way the Justice Department has been dragging their heals on the Hernandez Rojas case for two years leaves me feartful that what is now at the grand jury stage will end as a whitewash

  • spiper41

    I am appalled at what happened to Senor Rojas.  I am outraged at the behavior of so many CBP agents involved in torture and denial of human rights to would be immigrants in their care.  There is no excuse for treating any human being in the ways documented by Need to Know.  How did the Dept. of Homeland Security get so out of control?  And it’s not just CBP.  I would include the TSA and the outrageous amounts of money spent on surveillance of all of us.  I am not anti-government, but this kind of behavior diminishes us all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gaspar-Ortiz/100003292381987 Gaspar Ortiz

    Justice usually goes in fast track if the crimes are perpetrated against american citizens even if the criminal is another american national.It’s a different story when it is commited by a law enforcement against and american civilian or an ilegal alien crossing the border.Then the case will drag on and on for ever until the media cool down and the news become old and forgotten.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gaspar-Ortiz/100003292381987 Gaspar Ortiz

    Justice usually goes in fast track if the crimes are perpetrated against american citizens even if the criminal is another american national.It’s a different story when it is commited by a law enforcement against and american civilian or an ilegal alien crossing the border.Then the case will drag on and on for ever until the media cool down and the news become old and forgotten.

  • Anonymous

    People say immirants are ruining this country !!!  What a crock !  You know who is ruining this country, its the american police state. This is good example:  rape, murder, torture etc…..and they can do it with impunity !!!    A trusted -fair America is gone !     No one is minding the store.   These corrupt border patrol agents dont even come close to having the integrity the people they abuse have !  This is just disgusting !!!!   Im getting the heck out of this country its turned into a cesspool of big, out of control government.

  • Anonymous

    People say immirants are ruining this country !!!  What a crock !  You know who is ruining this country, its the american police state. This is good example:  rape, murder, torture etc…..and they can do it with impunity !!!    A trusted -fair America is gone !     No one is minding the store.   These corrupt border patrol agents dont even come close to having the integrity the people they abuse have !  This is just disgusting !!!!   Im getting the heck out of this country its turned into a cesspool of big, out of control government.

  • guest

    Why should are boarders be an different than the rest of our country.  Take Contra Costa County, California for example, false arrests and police officers setting up citizens with dirty dui’s.  Hey it is happening in our own backyard.