Justice is the truth
report on the questions surrounding the death of a mother of five at the hands of Border Patrol agents south of San Diego.
FAMILY MEMBERS and supporters are seeking justice after the shooting of Valeria Munique Alvarado Tachiquin, 32-year-old mother of five, by Border Patrol agents in Chula Vista, Calif., a working-class community five miles north of the border with Mexico.
According to the Border Patrol, undercover agents were in Chula Vista on September 28 attempting to serve an arrest warrant when one of them was struck by Munique's car. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Rodney Scott told reporters that the agent was clinging to the front of the moving car and, "Fearing for his life, he discharged his weapon to get the vehicle to stop."
But eyewitnesses at the scene have stepped forward in recent days to tell a story that contradicts the Border Patrol's version of events.
"The officer never got struck by the vehicle," Prince Watson, a local resident, told CBS 8 News. "The vehicle was actually moving in reverse." Watson told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "She wasn't speeding or driving erratic at all. I heard the agent say, 'Stop.' He was in the street and started shooting and walking toward the car."
Monique was shot six to eight times, in the chest, shoulder and arm. Witnesses recount that one undercover agent rushed to open the driver side door, only to have Munique's body fall to the ground. They recount how the agents checked her pulse and proceeded to stand by until paramedics arrived and attempted CPR. She was declared dead at the scene.
Another witness, Ayanna Evans, who lives in an apartment complex near the shooting, told the Union-Tribune that she also saw Munique's vehicle backing up slowly before the undercover officer approached her and started shooting.
Munique's family has been distraught over her death. "We're just trying to find what the next step is," said Munique's brother, Antonio Tachiquin. "We're trying to piece together what was tore apart that day, and we're trying to hold it together."
Within 24 hours of the news of Munique's death, the family organized a fundraiser in the form of carwash. Community members came out to stand by the family, with a long line of cars lined up to help support Munique's family. The next day, on October 1, family members and community organizations came together for a vigil to remember Munique's life and to demand justice.
The family has still heard nothing from authorities about the shooting. According to Antonio:
The day after the shooting, we came down here just to see the vigil. We heard that some members of the community were putting together this memory for my sister. We came down here, and we spoke with one or two witnesses that were eyewitnesses, and their stories conflict with what the border patrol spokesperson said on the news.
All we know is exactly what was told over the news. We don't know any more than the public knows, since authorities haven't contacted us in anyway.
At the vigil, Munique's father, Valentin Tachiquin, spoke emotionally to the community about his love for his daughter, the story of her life, and the community of Chula Vista who embraced him and his family.
The authorities and the media have tried to portray Munique as a criminal. Her father explained, "This is a political thing--they are going to make my daughter look bad. Her character is not in question. The only question is who killed my daughter?"
Family members, friends and community activists are demanding that the Border Patrol release the name of the agent involved in the shooting and that his physical appearance be brought to light. "If he has wounds as a result of their story, we want to see that," said one community activist.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
MUNIQUE ISN'T the first to be murdered at the hands of law enforcement in the San Diego area in recent months. On June 4, Victor Ortega was shot and killed by San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer Jonathan McCarthy.
According to witnesses who heard Victor's last words, the officer said "Get down," and Victor replied, "Are you kidding me?" While Victor lay on his stomach with his hands partially handcuffed, McCarthy shot Victor in the back of his head from about a foot away.
An SDPD lieutenant later admitted that Victor in fact didn't have a weapon. Authorities tried to justify McCarthy's actions by suggesting that Victor was reaching out for McCarthy's second gun. McCarthy was initially given a paid vacation during the investigation into the shooting, but is now back on patrol. The family and friends of Victor Ortega continue to lead a campaign for justice.
In another shooting on August 21, Sheriff's Deputy Luke Berhalter shot Jennifer Orey, following reports that a "suspicious male" was in the area near her home.
Officers were searching Orey's backyard unannounced when she came out to see what was happening. Officers ignored her calls asking them to identify themselves. Authorities claim that she startled them, and as a result, she was shot at point-blank range in the breast and arm.
"She's angry they don't want to be held accountable for what they did...or take responsibility for their actions," James Morgan, Jennifer's brother, told ABC 10 News. "She just wants them to own up to their mistake."
Nor is Munique the only one killed by Border Patrol agents. Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was killed in 2010 after some 15 Customs and Border Protection officers beat and Tasered him at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing point in San Diego. Eyewitnesses recorded the beating via cell phone. Rojas' wife and mother have been at the front of a long struggle seeking justice.
All of these recent cases reveal law enforcement officers acting as if they are judge, jury and executioner. And in a growing number of cases, family members and community members are speaking out.
Asked what justice would look like for Munique, her brother Antonio said:
Justice is just the truth. We don't seek any vengeance; we don't seek anything of that sort. All we want is a full investigation by the proper authorities--that if anything was wrong that day, if anything was out of the ordinary, not the way he was trained, that it be brought to justice and that it be brought to the community's attention.
So that politicians and people who make laws could make changes, to protect us as a community, as human beings who have rights, natural born rights, to be protected. As US citizens all of us have natural-born rights to walk around here free. And that is all we want.