MEXICO CITY — A Mexican citizen has been fatally shot by U.S. Border Patrol agents on the border with Texas in an incident that the Mexican government is calling a disproportionate use of force.
The Border Patrol said Saturday that agents had opened fire along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border after being pelted by rocks and having a gunman point a weapon in their direction from the Mexican side of the river. The agency said it did not know if anyone else was hurt, but the FBI was investigating.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry said late Sunday that a citizen had been killed by a gunshot fired by a U.S. agent at the Los Tomates-Veterans international bridge. It did not identify the victim or provide details about the incident. Mexico said its consulate in Brownsville had sent U.S. authorities a message demanding an exhaustive investigation without regard to the consequences.
"The Mexican government has said once again that the disproportionate use of force for purposes of immigration enforcement is unacceptable under any circumstances," the Foreign Ministry said.
Juana Maria Soto of Matamoros said her brother, 30-year-old Juan Pablo Perez Soto, was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent Saturday morning. She said she had received little information, but she believes her brother was on the Mexican river bank cutting firewood and said she understood that the agent crossed to the Mexican side to shoot him.
Border Patrol spokesman Henry Mendiola said Monday that the incident remains under investigation and they have not confirmed that someone was shot, but he disputed any suggestion that agents crossed the border into Mexico.
"Our agents are not going to go into Mexico to neutralize something like this," Mendiola said.
He said Border Patrol agents came upon a group of people on the U.S. side near the Saturday morning. They detained some while others retreated toward the river and began throwing rocks. One agent who was not able to escape the rocks fired toward the group, Mendiola said. At the same time, another agent at the scene saw a person across the river in Mexico point a rifle toward them. That agent fired across the river, Mendiola said.
Soto said her 14-year-old son was one of those detained by Border Patrol. She has not been able to speak with him, but said the Mexican consulate told her he was unharmed.
Mendiola said several people had been taken into custody but that he could not provide details about the suspects or charges they face.
Border Patrol agents seizing 4,000 pounds of marijuana in March got into a shootout with drug smugglers. In that incident, it also was not known whether anyone on the Mexican side was hit.
Last summer, authorities said Border Patrol agents and rangers with the Texas Department of Public Safety exchanged about 300 rounds of gunfire with suspected drug smugglers. Officials said the suspects threw rocks at U.S. lawmen in that incident, too.
In 2010, a Border Patrol agent in El Paso shot and killed a 15-year-old Mexican boy across the Rio Grande. Investigators say the agent fired after being attacked by people throwing rocks.
Sherman contributed from McAllen, Texas.