Witnesses have disputed the official account of what led a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent to shoot and kill a young Guatemalan woman along the Texas border in May, Buzzfeed News reports.
In two contradictory statements issued in May, CBP said 19-year-old Claudia Patricia Gómez González and the three men she was crossing the border with attacked the unnamed agent before he fatally shot Gómez González. But the three men say they did not attack the agent, Guatemalan General Consul Tekandi Paniagua told Buzzfeed News.
Their accounts match what Marta Martinez told Buzzfeed News in May. Martinez, who lives nearby, heard the shot that killed Gómez González and witnessed the scene afterward.
“The girl was in the grass and trees; to me she was hiding,” Martinez told Buzzfeed News. “They’re saying they threw rocks at the agents, but the two migrants were scared and the one guy was scared — they didn’t have rocks in their hands.”
Martinez made similar comments to The New York Times: “There was no weapon,” she said. “They were hiding.”
In a statement released after the shooting, CBP said the agent “came under attack by multiple subjects using blunt objects” before he fired his service weapon. A follow-up statement did not mention “blunt objects” but said the group ” rushed” the agent when he ordered them to get on the ground.
The agent, a 15-year veteran of the force, is on administrative leave as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Texas Rangers, the statewide law enforcement agency, investigate.
But all three men who were present during the shooting have elected to return to Guatemala rather than continue to fight their deportation, according to Paniagua. That could complicate the ongoing investigation.
“It was not an easy choice for them to make and it is the one we have to respect. It’s our job to support them,” Paniagua told BuzzFeed News. “They’re desperate, sitting behind bars.”
The Texas Rangers have already interviewed the three men, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety told Buzzfeed. The FBI was reportedly involved in conversations with the three men about whether they wished to stay in the United States, but it’s not clear whether the agency has completed its interviews with them.
Gómez González’s mother, Lidia González Vásquez, and her aunt, Dominga Vicente, spoke out against the shooting in the days that followed.
“This is not the first person dying in the United States,” Vicente said at a press conference in Guatemala City. “There are many people that have been treated like animals and that isn’t what we should do as people.”
González Vásquez told the television station Guatevisión that her daughter came to the U.S. to find an accounting job because “[t]here’s no work here.”
“But shamefully they killed her,” González Vásquez said. “The migration killed her.”