MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's defense department confirmed Tuesday the shots which killed a Guatemalan near the country's southern border were fired by a soldier who misjudged the situation.
The deadly shooting took place in Motozintla, Chiapas state, which sits on the border with Guatemala.
The victim, Elvin Mazariegos, was traveling in a vehicle with two other people when the driver, on spotting a military checkpoint, stopped and put the car into reverse.
"There was an erroneous reaction on the part of the military personnel, because there was no aggression with a firearm or aggression of any other kind (from the people in the car)," the defense secretary, Gen. Luis Cresencio Sandoval, said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's daily press conference at the National Palace.
"But one of our elements fired several shots and wounded one of the civilians," the secretary added.
Sandoval discussed the incident hours after prosecutors in the Chiapas Attorney General's Office announced they had started a homicide investigation.
While the general said the soldiers at the scene came to the aid of Mazariegos after the shooting, the Chiapas AG office said the Guatemalan's body was found inside an abandoned vehicle in the neighboring Mexican municipality of Mazapa de Madero.
Mexican authorities must provide an explanation "of the crimes committed," Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo said Tuesday.
The soldier who fired the fatal shots has been placed at the disposal of the Mexican AG office, Sandoval said.
In the wake of the shooting, roughly 300 people, including some from Guatemala, gathered at the scene and began assaulting the soldiers with sticks and stones, the defense secretary said.
The crowd seized 15 soldiers, three army vehicles and 17 guns, releasing them only after authorities promised to compensate Mazariegos' family and pursue legal action against the shooter.
Mexico recently increased the number of military personnel deployed on the southern border, where nearly 35,000 undocumented migrants have been detained so far this year, up 28 percent from the same period in 2020.
On Mar. 18, Mexico closed its southern border for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, citing public health concerns as the reason.
The following day, the United States announced that it was supplying nearly 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine - still awaiting approval from US regulators - to Mexico.
The timing caused some in Mexico to suspect that Washington traded vaccines for commitments from the Lopez Obrador government to take steps to stem the northbound flow of Central American migrants amid a burgeoning crisis on the US border.