Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: Two US Citizens Among Three Teenage Boys Shot Dead In Border City: UPDATED

8 Feb

EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT - The bodies of two ...
AP – EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT – The bodies of two young boys lie next to cars at the site where three teenage …

Mexico Drug War Slideshow:Mexico Drug War

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Three teenage boys were shot to death in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, at least two of them U.S. citizens and high school students in Texas, authorities said Monday.

The boys were killed at 4:22 p.m. Saturday while looking at cars in a dealership in the city across the border from El Paso, Texas, Chihuahua prosecutors’ spokesman Arturo Sandoval said. One was found inside a white Jeep Cherokee and the other two in the courtyard.

There were no leads on suspects or a motive, Sandoval said. Two managers were also in the dealership during the attack. One refused to give a statement, while the statement from the other manager was not released because of the pending investigation, Sandoval added. At least 60 bullet casings were found at the scene.

One of the boys, Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermudez, 16, was a sophomore at Cathedral High School in El Paso, said Nick Gonzalez, the Roman Catholic brother who is the principal. Another victim, Juan Carlos Echeverri, 15, had been a freshman at the private all-boys Catholic school last year but left to study in Ciudad Juarez, Gonzalez said.

Both were U.S. citizens, he said. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said it could provide no immediate information on the case.

The third teenager was identified as Cesar Yalin Miramontes Jimenez, 17.

The school principal said Gonzalez Bermudez mainly lived in Ciudad Juarez and commuted each day across the border. He said 20 percent of the 485 students enrolled at Cathedral are from Ciudad Juarez.

Gonzalez said the school’s sophomore class had a prayer service Monday and officials planned a rosary service for the entire school later in the week.

“It’s a lot of pain, a lot of sorrow, a lot of tears, a lot of coming together as a community to try to hold each other up and to try and make sense today,” Gonzalez said. “How do you make sense of this meaningless tragedy? Hopefully this can really empower us to make a positive change in the border community because their deaths will have no meaning otherwise.”

Many Ciudad Juarez residents travel across the border on a daily basis for work or study. Some Mexicans live in El Paso for safety reasons and commute to Ciudad Juarez.

Ciudad Juarez city has become one of the world’s most dangerous cities amid a fierce turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels. More than 3,000 people were killed last year in the city of 1.3 million residents.

Gonzalez said students at the school have had a number of relatives killed in the violence in Ciudad Juarez. A graduate of the school was killed last fall, he said.

“Our Juarez kids knew all three” of the teenagers killed over the weekend, he said. “It’s a very tight knit community. A lot of them car pool; that’s how they know each other.”

___

Associated Press writer Olivia Torres reported this story in Ciudad Juarez and Juan A. Lozano from Houston, Texas.

NEWS UPDATE:

By Nacha Cattan Nacha Cattan :

Mexico City – At least one US citizen was among three teenagers fatally shot this weekend in the violent border city of Juárez, Mexican authorities confirmed today, in the latest case of Americans caught up in Mexico’s drug war.

But bringing the perpetrators to justice may prove difficult for the US citizens involved, just as it has for the tens of thousands of Mexicans seeking justice from a weak judicial system often incapable of incarcerating organized criminals.

Local radio reported that gunmen approached the teens Saturday at a car dealership, demanding the name of the dealership’s owner and opening fire when the boys did not respond. “They were looking at cars at an auto lot when men came and fired at them. We are investigating whether they were the initial targets or not,” Chihuahua state prosecutors’ spokesman Carlos Gonzalez told the Monitor.

IN PICTURES: Mexico’s drug war

Despite reports that two of the teenagers were Americans, Mr. Gonzalez says only 15-year-old Juan Carlos Echeverri was a US citizen. He and 16-year-old Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermudez both lived in Juárez and at various times commuted to El Paso to attend the all-boys Catholic Cathedral High School. The third teenager was Cesar Yalin Miramontes Jimenez, 17.

The US embassy in Mexico City today said it had yet to identify the teens’ citizenship.

Complications in cross-border prosecutionsAmericans have repeatedly fallen victim to Mexico’s drug war, which has claimed 34,612 lives over the past four years. The latest killings come less than two weeks after 59-year-old US missionary Nancy Shuman Davis was shot in the border state of Tamaulipas by gunmen who tried to stop her and her husband in their car. She died in a Texas hospital.

A spokesman for the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office told the Monitor that US and Mexican investigators are working together to find the killers of Mrs. Davis. But because the death occurred on the US side of the border, the gunmen were being investigated in Mexico for discharging their weapons and not for murder.

Murky cross-border laws may prove another hindrance to bringing Davis’s killers to justice, as has happened in similar cases, legal and security experts say.

“When it’s this complicated, and it’s the state of Tamaulipas, it doesn’t bode well for justice,” says Joan Safford, a former Justice Department attaché at the US embassy in Mexico City.

American murders remain unsolved Ms. Safford says that, according to both US and Mexican criminal responsibility and extradition laws, the gunmen can be investigated for murder on either side of the border. Mexican authorities just need to be creative about their prosecutorial methods, which Safford says does not often happen.

US victims of crimes in Mexico have an added hurdle to overcome as many of them flee the country without filing police reports or sticking around to exert pressure on authorities – sometimes the only way investigations continue apace, Safford says.

For example, an investigation into the alleged September shooting of David Hartley, who was riding a jet ski with his wife at Falcon Lake – which straddles both Texas and Tamaulipas – has not registered any advances. Tiffany Hartley refused to enter Tamaulipas to file a report on her husband’s death and instead did so from a consulate in Texas. The decapitation of the chief investigator in the case only seemed to decrease the likelihood that the murder would be resolved.

But at the same time, Mexico and the US have also used cross-border legal complications to their benefit, says Javier Oliva, security expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. In June and November, US Border Patrol agents allegedly shot and killed teens on the Mexican side of the border. Mexico has demanded the shootings be treated as excessive use of force, while the US said its agents were defending themselves.

The killings in Juárez are part of a growing number of youth caught in the cross fires of the drug war, which has now affected US children as well. The UN Committee on the Rights of Children released a report Friday expressing “great concern” at the deaths in Mexico of approximately 1,000 children in drug-related violence over the last four years.

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