Time: Wed Jul 09 03:26:57 1997
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Date: Wed, 09 Jul 1997 03:14:15 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: why do we even question rules of engagement? (fwd)
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit

>Dear Friends,
>Remember the 18 year old U.S. citizen, after being stalked for 20 minutes,
>who was ultimately killed by a member of a Marine fire team (made up of
>four men).  
>The following article may interest you.
>Best regards,
>Anyone read the Declaration of Independence lately?
>>Today's San Diego Union-Tribune has a feature story that I've attached
>>regarding the Texas incident of the United States Marines on drug
>>patrol, shooting to death an 18 year old U.S. citizen who had an antique
>>rifle. Worst yet information indicates the Marine tracked this young man
>>for twenty minutes.  Looks as though the Texas Rangers are conducting
>>their own investigation and a war of words is occurring between the
>>Rangers and U.S. Government.
>>Yesterday I learned that residents in the Santa Cruz mountains in
>>California are upset because low flying helicopters have been orbiting
>>and hovering around their homes disturbing them and even waking them at
>>night.  The Sheriff's department there has reported these are military
>>helicopters taking part in a program to locate marijuana growers and
>>their plants.
>>Congress has recently approved the use of 10,000 military troops here in
>>the United States to fight the "so called" drug problem.
>>When our country is sending troops into foreign nations with or without
>>the U.N. participation, we Americans question the strategic and tactical
>>value of whether we should be there.  When our politicians have approved
>>the use of our military domestically to fight a problem traditional law
>>enforcement should have jurisdiction of, why don't American's become
>>ALARMED?  Think on these things:
>>1. Why aren't more Americans questioning this?
>>2. How does this compare to Nazi Germany's history?
>>3. Understanding that the deployment of resources on our borders to
>>   fight the alleged drug war is a beginning logistical step by      
>>Washington to build the U.S. military to be used in the United   
>>4. Watching trends where the military's use will go from drug
>>   interdiction to law enforcement which will include asset seizures,
>>   searches of home, car and person, etc in the name of fighting crime?
>>You may really think this is far fetched but I urge you to look into the
>>current asset forfeiture laws related to drugs in this county; military
>>training for domestic terrorism; joint agency task forces currently
>>conducting raids and arresting citizens; check points currently operated
>>by Border Patrol with the official reason to stop the illegal
>>immigration problem but these officers are arresting people weekly for
>>vehicle code violations and other crimes.
>>It becomes harder to call our country a democracy if we are quickly
>>becoming a police state.  Five years ago did you think we'd be
>>questioning the technicality of "rules of engagement" regarding U.S.
>>military versus U.S. citizens?
>>Best Regards-  Darren
>>"The country must have a large and efficient army, one capable of
>>meeting the enemy abroad, or the must expect to meet him at home".
>>Wellington, letter in 1811
>>July 6, 1997
>>1:18 pm
>>   [Image]   A Marine team on drug watch; an 18-year-old with an antique
>>   [Image]   rifle; they meet, there is gunfire, there is tragedy
>>             ------------------------------------------------------------
>>             July 6, 1997
>>             REDFORD, Texas -- This is Big Bend country, sweltering
>>             desert carved by the Rio Grande, where the houses are of
>>             mud brick, where traffic is a tractor hauling cantaloupes,
>>             where everyone knows everyone else.
>>             For three days in May, however, the 80 or so folks living
>>             here didn't know that four U.S. Marines from San Diego
>>             County, well-armed and camouflaged, were lurking among
>>             them, watching for drug smugglers from Mexico.
>>             By the end of that third day, they all knew.
>>             Esequiel Hernandez Jr., a local teen-ager, crossed paths
>>             with the Marines amid the mesquite and cactus. What
>>             happened next is still a matter of dispute and may become
>>             the subject of a Texas trial, but one thing is beyond
>>             question:
>>             A 22-year-old Marine corporal named Clementino Ba˝uelos
>>             fired a single shot from an M-16 rifle. The 5.56 mm slug
>>             punched into the right side of Hernandez's chest, broke
>>             apart and ripped through six vital organs. The 18-year-old
>>             staggered a few yards near an abandoned house and died.
>>             The incident happened amid rising violence along the
>>             U.S.-Mexico border and just before Congress approved the
>>             use of 10,000 troops in the fight against drugs.
>>             Five months earlier, down near Brownsville, an Army Green
>>             Beret staked out at the Rio Grande shot and wounded a
>>             Mexican national who fired at him. The man would live to
>>             plead guilty to assaulting a federal officer.
>>             But in the Redford incident, the victim was an American
>>             citizen, the first to be intentionally killed by a U.S.
>>             soldier on U.S. soil in nearly 30 years.
>>             A young man not yet old enough to drink.
>>             The Marines, part of an artillery regiment stationed at
>>             Camp Pendleton, were watching for "mules" ferrying drugs
>>             from Mexico across the Rio Grande.
>>             For three days at a time, four-man teams of Marines were to
>>             hide amid the cactus, their human form disguised by shaggy
>>             camouflage clothing called "Ghillie suits." Hiding and
>>             sleeping by day, they were watching a ford of the river by
>>             night.
>>             They also were watching over the mesas and gullies where
>>             young Hernandez took his family's 42 goats each day to
>>             graze.
>>             Neither the Border Patrol, which had requested the Marines,
>>             nor El Paso's Joint Task Force 6 -- the Defense Department
>>             office that had arranged for the Camp Pendleton unit to
>>             come to Texas -- had told anyone in Redford of the
>>             operation.
>>             "They were hiding not only from anyone doing anything
>>             illegal, but they were hiding from us," says Leonel
>>             Ceniceros, a member of the Redford committee trying to sue
>>             the government over the matter.
>>             First encounter
>>             About 6:15 p.m. on a clear evening on May 20, Hernandez and
>>             the Marines first encountered each other.
>>             The Marines have told military investigators and Texas
>>             Rangers that Hernandez fired at them twice with his
>>             antique, hand-me-down .22-caliber pump-action rifle and was
>>             preparing to fire a third time before they shot back.
>>             Hernandez's father, Esequiel Sr., insists he heard only one
>>             shot. So do other Redford residents, including Jesus
>>             Valenzuela, a neighbor of the Hernandez family who saw
>>             young Hernandez only minutes before he was shot.
>>             Investigators found spent .22-caliber shells where the
>>             Marines said they first saw Hernandez -- and one spent
>>             shell in his rifle -- but said that did not confirm that
>>             Hernandez fired twice at the Marines.
>>             "That's an area where a lot of people go out to shoot at
>>             tin cans. There were shells there that weren't even from
>>             his gun," says Presidio County District Attorney Albert
>>             Valadez.
>>             The Marines also said a 30 to 35 mph wind was blowing at
>>             the time, making it impossible for them to orally identify
>>             themselves to the young man. Locals scoff at this scenario.
>>             "You've seen what kind of terrain we have around here. It's
>>             all desert, all dust and sand," says Mel LaFollette, a
>>             retired Episcopal minister. "You get a 35 mile an hour wind
>>             going and you're not even going to be able to see anyone at
>>             100 yards, much less shoot at 'em."
>>             More troubling to the Texas Rangers was that the Marines
>>             apparently followed Hernandez for 20 minutes before
>>             shooting him, according to Ranger Capt. Barry Caver of
>>             Midland. The rules of engagement specifically state:
>>             "You WILL make every effort to avoid confrontation and
>>             armed conflict with civilians."
>>             From beginning to end, Hernandez and the Marines never came
>>             closer than 200 yards.
>>             By the end of this month, the case will go to the Presidio
>>             County grand jury, which could file felony charges against
>>             Ba˝uelos and/or the others, says Valadez.
>>             The Hernandez family is filing a wrongful-death suit. And a
>>             group of Redford residents is trying to mount a
>>             class-action lawsuit against the government.
>>             At Camp Pendleton, the Marines released a two-page
>>             statement last week that read in part:
>>             "The incident is still under investigation by the U.S.
>>             military and civilian law enforcement officials. The U.S.
>>             Marine Corps is committed to the full factual investigation
>>             into all of the events related to this tragic incident so
>>             that it is never repeated."
>>             An angry town
>>             That sentiment is shared, angrily, in Redford and over in
>>             neighboring Presidio, where Hernandez had attended high
>>             school.
>>             "The way it looks to us, a real good kid was just
>>             murdered," says Rose Adamson, a Presidio resident.
>>             Ba˝uelos is not talking. But along the river where
>>             Hernandez lived and died, people are talking, and acting.
>>             From his trailer home, LaFollette, known locally as Father
>>             Mel, is spearheading the class-action suit. He and a
>>             handful of neighbors have formed the Redford Citizens
>>             Committee for Justice.
>>             To LaFollette, the Hernandez shooting symbolizes years of
>>             official disregard for this tiny community.
>>             "The school board doesn't care about Redford. The county
>>             doesn't care about Redford," he says. "Now we've been
>>             invaded by the Marines and a kid has been killed."
>>             For Hispanic committee members like rancher Jesus
>>             Valenzuela, it's the ultimate form of what he considers
>>             government harassment.
>>             "You can't go out of your house without the Border Patrol
>>             asking you questions, without them looking at you with
>>             binoculars," he says.
>>             It's hard to imagine Redford as a site for controversy of
>>             any sort, this dot along Farm Road 170 en route to Big Bend
>>             National Park. There's no gas station, no stoplight, no
>>             McDonald's.
>>             The big news here usually involves announcements about the
>>             annual Onion Festival or the latest pesticide approved for
>>             use against the sweet potato whitefly.
>>             Still, it is a place rich in history and heritage, even if
>>             it is dirt poor in almost everything else.
>>             Ask someone how long his family has lived in this scattered
>>             dust stop and the answer may take you back more than a
>>             century. Remains of wagon trails run just off the pavement.
>>             When someone here tells you that his
>>             great-great-grandfather was kidnapped by Apaches, he's not
>>             kidding.
>>             The Mexican town of Ojinaga lies just across the river from
>>             Presidio. Pancho Villa fought a battle here during the
>>             Mexican Revolution, which prompted the U.S. Army to install
>>             a fort at Redford to discourage him from going any farther
>>             north.
>>             "So you see, we've been run over by the military before,"
>>             says LaFollette.
>>             If Redford seems an unlikely place for a major incident,
>>             Esequiel Hernandez Jr. seemed even less likely to be its
>>             victim. He is described as an introverted teen-ager with a
>>             love of horses and history and culture.
>>             When his high school started a Spanish folkloric dance
>>             class, he was the only boy who signed up. The kid who would
>>             later be described as shy, meek and polite by his teachers
>>             still managed to persuade five other boys to eventually
>>             join him.
>>             His only known brush with the law occurred in February, and
>>             that was accidental, according to Joe Harris, acting Border
>>             Patrol chief in the Marfa sector, which includes Redford.
>>             Hernandez and a friend were out grazing Hernandez's goats
>>             and "plinking" at tins cans with Hernandez's .22-caliber
>>             rifle. Their shots passed close to a pair of Border Patrol
>>             agents, who hurriedly left the area as soon as they heard
>>             the shots.
>>             Seeing the agents emerge from the desert scrub, Hernandez
>>             and his friend followed them back to their station and
>>             apologized for firing in their area.
>>             "As far as we were concerned, the incident was closed,"
>>             says Harris. Asked if it was the Border Patrol's belief
>>             that Hernandez was deliberately shooting at the agents,
>>             Harris says emphatically, "No, that is not true."
>>             The Pentagon insists that armed troops manning border
>>             observation posts are thoroughly trained on the rules of
>>             engagement months in advance, from their commanders on
>>             down. Those rules prohibit soldiers from doing much more
>>             than defending themselves if attacked.
>>             No escape
>>             None of that offers much comfort, however, to the father of
>>             Esequiel Hernandez Jr.
>>             Today, Esequiel Hernandez Sr. walks the same desert mesas
>>             his son walked and tries to get on with his life at his
>>             adobe compound, wiping the brow under his battered baseball
>>             cap. He has a wife and seven other kids to think about,
>>             three sons and four daughters, a slew of nieces and
>>             nephews. There are horses to water, trucks to keep running.
>>             But there is no escape. There are too many reminders. Foil
>>             packets of military rations and strips of burlap the
>>             Marines used to form their shaggy camouflage still litter
>>             the desert floor, as do those bright yellow strips of
>>             barrier tape now so familiar to big-city dwellers.
>>             It's all there, within a single sweep of his vision.
>>             The adobe house he built himself in which his son "Juni"
>>             was born.
>>             The spot above the river where his son and the Marines
>>             first saw each other.
>>             The abandoned house near where his son was shot.
>>             The Baptist Church where his funeral was held, attended by
>>             some 800 people, 10 times the population of Redford.
>>             The rough-hewn cemetery where his son lies buried.
>>             And every time a television crew or newspaper reporter
>>             pulls up in front of his place for one more interview, one
>>             more photo, the wound on a father's soul rips open one more
>>             time.
>>             "It hurts, it hurts and I cry," he says softly.
>>             Then he turns back to his goats.
>>             ------------------------------------------------------------
>>             Copyright 1997 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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