Marines Given OK to Shoot in Texas Case-Lawyer

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Posted by Charles Pixley by way of Mathew Gaylor and Sun Tsu on August 29, 1997 at 20:06:55:

From: "Sun Tzu's Firearms Newsline"
Subject: Marines Given OK to Shoot in Texas Case-Lawyer
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 1997 18:05:43 -0700

Thursday August 14 5:00 PM EDT

Marines Given OK to Shoot in Texas Case-Lawyer
By Jodi Bizar

MARFA, Texas (Reuter) - A group of U.S. Marines who shot and killed a
Texas teenager in May as he herded goats near the Mexican border had
received permission from superiors to open fire, an attorney for one
of the men said Thursday.

Jerald Crow, an attorney for Lance Cpl. James Blood, said the four
Marines radioed in to superiors after 18-year-old Esequiel Hernandez
fired a shot at them and they were told to respond if necessary.

"They were given permission to load their weapons and return fire if
they were fired on again," Crow told reporters outside a courthouse in
Marfa, where his client and two of the other Marines were testifying
before a grand jury.

It was the first time that claim had been made but Crow, a former
Marine, said he was not sure if the permission was given by Border
Patrol agents or the Task Force Six military agency to which the
Marines were assigned.

Marine Cpl. Clemente Banuelos fired the shot that killed Hernandez
on May 20 in the Texas border town of Redford, where the Marines were
on an anti-narcotics surveillance mission.

The Marines say Hernandez shot at them first and was about to do so
again, but the youngster's family says he would not open fire on anyone
and only carried an old .22 caliber rifle to scare off wild animals.

All of the Marines except Banuelos appeared before the grand jury
investigating the case after being given "use immunity," which guarantees
that any testimony they provide and any evidence uncovered because of
that testimony cannot be used against them. Prosecutors could still
use other evidence against them if conspiracy charges were filed.

"Anything they say can't be used against them but it doesn't mean they
are completely off the hook," Crow said.

He said Blood and the other two Marines, Lance Cpl. Ronald Wieler Jr and
Cpl. Roy Torres, believed Banuelos had acted correctly.

The death of Hernandez brought a storm of protest over the use of
military forces in civilian areas to combat drug trafficking, and the
Pentagon quickly suspended missions like the one that ended tragically
in Redford.

Maria de Luz Hernandez, the dead teenager's mother, said Thursday she
was concerned her son's killer might escape punishment.

"I don't know if there is going to be justice. I am very worried because
of the silence," she told reporters here, accompanied by her husband and
a daughter. "My life has changed since my son was killed."

Banuelos has not testified before the grand jury and did not appear to
be in Marfa Thursday. His lawyer, Jack Zimmermann, has said Banuelos was
simply acting to save the life of a fellow Marine.

"He shot in defense of one of his fellow teammates. That is what he was
supposed to do and that's not a crime in Texas," Zimmerman said recently.

The grand jury also was expected to hear testimony from Border Patrol
agents and Texas Rangers who have investigated the case.

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