Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mexican man dies after being stun-gunned at border

SAN DIEGO — A Mexican man who was shot with a Taser stun gun during an altercation with federal border officers has died, authorities said Tuesday.

Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, 32, was declared dead Saturday at a local hospital, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

San Diego police, who are investigating the death, said Hernandez Rojas and his brother were arrested by Border Patrol agents about 7:20 p.m. Friday on suspicion of illegally crossing the border.

The men were going to be turned over to Mexican officials at the San Ysidro border crossing when Hernandez Rojas became “violent” after agents removed his handcuffs, police said.

He and the agents fell to the ground during the struggle, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were called for help. A baton was also used to no effect at some point during the fight, police said. A customs agent shot him in the back with a Taser, and he stopped breathing shortly afterward, police said.

Officers administered CPR before paramedics took him to a hospital.

Authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine what role, if any, the Taser may have played in the death.

San Diego police Capt. Jim Collins said drugs or mental disorders are frequently contributing factors in Taser death cases. There was no obvious indication at the time of arrest that Hernandez Rojas was under the influence, Collins said.

Police are investigating the incident and documenting the amount of force used by officers before submitting the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for review.

Federal officials have declined to release the names of the officers involved.

In a statement released Tuesday, Mexico’s Department of Exterior Relations condemned the use of the Taser and stated that the Mexican government will press for a full investigation. Alberto Diaz Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, said the consulate was still waiting for a report of the incident from investigators.

Last year, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International amended its user manual to recommend that officers avoid hitting the chest, neck and head area due to a low risk of cardiac arrest — and to prevent lawsuits.

Amnesty International claims that about 350 people died after being shocked by Tasers between 2001 and 2008.

Staff writer Leslie Berestein contributed to this report.

Kristina Davis: (619) 542-4591; kristina.davis@uniontrib.com


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