Locals, rabid reconquistas protest alleged accidental shooting of illegal alien

http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/local/3_9_01vigil.html

Tucsonans protest shooting of immigrant

The FBI has started a 'preliminary civil rights investigation' into Monday's killing of a Mexican border crosser.

DAVID J. CIESLAK Citizen Staff Writer March 9, 2001

About 35 people prayed at a downtown shrine last night for the Mexican man shot and killed Monday by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

The agent claims the shooting was an accident.

The prayer vigil was sponsored by a local human rights group that says the rights of Mexican nationals are being violated along the border by federal agents and others.

The FBI is investigating the shooting death for possible human rights violations, but members of Derechos Humanos Coalition say one law enforcement agency cannot impartially investigate another.

"We as a community cannot continue to stand for these types of violations," Isabel Garcia, who co-chairs Derechos Humanos, said during the vigil.

"It's a no-win situation. The immigrants are damned if they do and damned if they don't," Garcia said. "It's their fault if they get killed."

Garcia's remarks came at the weekly vigil held at El Tiradito shrine downtown to remember immigrants who died in Arizona on their journey to find work in the United States.

Participants in the vigil, some accompanied by small children, adorned the shrine with white crosses and candles in memory of dead border crossers.

Garcia and several others at the gathering said they were infuriated by the shooting of Roberto Chavez-Resendiz, 22, as he was surrendering to a Border Patrol agent.

The agent, Marco Antonio Rivera, who works out of the patrol's Casa Grande substation, told investigators his pistol accidentally fired while he tried to detain Chavez-Resendiz, his brother and brother-in-law.

The bullet struck Chavez-Resendiz, of Hidalgo, Mexico, in the chest. He was taken by helicopter to a Tucson hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The brother and brother-in-law told Pima County sheriff's detectives that Rivera's gun discharged as the agent pushed Chavez-Resendiz toward the ground.

The Mexican consul in Tucson, Carlos Angel Torres Garcia, said he talked with the brother and brother-in-law and that they believe the shooting was accidental, although they did not see him being shot.

FBI spokesman Ed Hall said yesterday the agency has opened a "preliminary civil rights investigation."

Rivera, 34, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Derechos Humanos members contend Rivera should never have taken his gun out of the holster. Garcia said the agent violated federal policy by doing so and should be disciplined "whether (the shooting) is an accident or not."

Border Patrol spokesman Rene Noriega declined comment last night.

"It will all come out in the investigation," he said. "I'm not at liberty to discuss the case." Lucia Ross, 19, lighted a candle at the vigil and placed it on the shrine.

Ross said she feels sorry for Chavez-Resendiz and wants a stop to violence along the border.

"These people are trying to come here and have a life and help their families," according to Ross.

"The killings are not really helping our world."