EL PASO, Texas – Filmmaker Charlie Minn is looking forward to the premier next month of his documentary about the deaths of three Mexican teenagers in border incidents involving US agents.
“Bullets at the Border” aims to bring renewed attention to two fatal shootings by Border Patrol agents and to a third death blamed on negligence by US Customs and Border Protection personnel.
The director told EFE that he wants to raise awareness about the often unequal relationship between Border Patrol agents and people on the other side of the border.
“The Mexicans and the United States border agents don’t like each other. Despite this, the gunshots never should have happened. There has been too much loss of life,” the New York native said in an interview.
Minn, whose previous films include documentaries about the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre and drug-war mayhem in Mexico, said he set out to determine whether the two shooting deaths were “murders or acts of self-defense.”
Both of the Mexican teens were shot after hurling stones at Border Patrol agents from across the border.
Sergio Hernandez Güereca, a 15-year-old resident of Ciudad Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, was fatally shot by Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa on June 7, 2010.
The teen was on Mexican soil, 18 meters (59 ft.) from the boundary line, and his death became news thanks to a cellphone video captured by a witness.
Jose Rodriguez, 16, died under similar circumstances on Oct. 10, 2012 in the Mexican city of Nogales, located opposite Nogales, Arizona.
In that instance, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz fired 10 shots into Rodriguez, eight of which struck the youth in the back.
The third case featured in “Bullets at the Border” centers on the events of Nov. 18, 2013 at the San Ysidro border crossing, just outside San Diego, where Mexican national Cruz Velazquez, 16, was stopped by US agents as he tried to enter the United States.
Questioned by the agents about two bottles found in his backpack, Velazquez told them it was apple juice.
The agents then asked him to drink from one of the bottles, which actually contained liquid amphetamine.
After taking several gulps, Velazquez went into convulsions. Less than two hours later, he was dead.
The families of all three of the boys filed lawsuits against the US government, but only Velazquez’s parents have received any compensation for the death of their son.
In March, the US government agreed to pay them $1 million to make up for the negligence of the personnel at San Ysidro who stood by as the teen died.