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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.”

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