Feds Pay $1M to Family of Man Killed by Border Patrol Agents

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal judge tentatively approved a $1 million settlement Thursday to be split between the five children of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a Mexican man shot with a Taser and beaten to death in 2010 after he was detained for illegally entering the U.S. through the busiest border crossing in the world.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Louisa Porter’s tentative approval, which she delayed signing in case the settlement money needs to go through probate, marks the end of the seven-year litigation that received national attention and shed light on the lack of oversight of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency.

“From a practical and realistic standpoint, it would be difficult to put an exact dollar amount on the individual economic and non-economic damages suffered by each of the Plaintiffs,” Porter wrote in her 12-page order.  “It is fair and reasonable to say that each of the Plaintiffs suffered equally from the loss of their father.  Some of the Plaintiffs knew their father well and could well identify their loss of comfort and society from their experience with him.  Some of the Plaintiffs … were too young to know their father and suffered from the loss of never knowing him other than from photographs and stories.”

The settlement required a judge’s approval because some of Hernandez’s children receiving the funds are still minors.

Border patrol agents stopped Hernandez in May 2010 for crossing the border in Otay Mesa, and a few days later he was transferred to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to be deported.

On May 28, 2010 he was handcuffed and held face down while agents beat him with batons and repeatedly discharged a Taser at him after he allegedly fought their attempts to restrain him when he did not listen to their orders. Agents eventually realized Hernandez had stopped breathing and took him to the hospital, where he was on a ventilator for two days. On May 31, the hospital took him off life support. The medical examiner ruled that Hernandez’s death was a homicide.

Two witnesses had captured the beating on cell phone cameras, and it soon went viral.

Hernandez was an undocumented, long-time San Diego resident, and his death attracted international attention. Sixteen members of Congress sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security, the Inspector General and the Department of Justice demanding an investigation.  Calls from Hernandez’s family and other immigration activists pressured Customs and Border Protection to make its  use-of-force manual public, and studies were launched to examine use-of-force by Border Patrol agents.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined in 2015 to file criminal charges against the agents involved in Hernandez’s  death, claiming insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal case.

“The settlement isn’t justice, but it is a badge of shame,” Maria Puga, Hernandez’s widow, said in a statement.

“No amount of money can bring back Anastasio. No family should ever have to go through this. We don’t want to have more cases like that of Anastasio,” she continued.

The family, joined by international law experts, filed a petition in 2016 with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. The petition claims the U.S. government failed to timely and properly prosecute the Border Patrol agents involved in Hernandez’s death.

The Hernandez family was represented by Gene Iredale out of San Diego, who said in a statement that the case “highlights the microcosm of all the problems that plague the CBP.”

A spokesman for San Diego’s Border Patrol did not immediately return an email request for comment.

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