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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Illegal Alien Shot in Texas - Thought he was a wild hog

MySA.com: Metro | State

Officials still probing border shooting death
Web Posted: 05/19/2004 12:00 AM CDT

Jesse Bogan
Express-News Border Bureau

EAGLE PASS —— More than three months after a hunter shot into the night and hit a Mexican immigrant, the incident is still under investigation.

Celestino Lopez Espino, 35, an undocumented immigrant from Central Mexico, died here Jan. 31 after a bullet from a .30-caliber rifle ripped through his abdomen and came out through a change of clothes he kept in a black plastic bag on his back.

Jaime Gonzalez, 35, of Eagle Pass, who has cooperated with authorities, told police he mistook Lopez for a wild hog after an unsuccessful day of hunting deer at Rodriguez Ranch south of El Indio.

While two people at camp prepared dinner, Gonzalez said he went back out around 8 p.m. to see if he could kill a hog because he heard a pack of them, said Maverick County sheriff's Sgt. Sergio Beattie.

"In the beginning he was looking through a scope, but he said it was too dark and then he just took a wild shot as they were scattering," Beattie said. Lopez was 129 yards away. The hunting party gave him CPR and rushed him to a hospital, where he died.

The district attorney's office has not presented the case to a grand jury.

District Attorney Roberto Serna said a decision in the case would be made in the next 90 days, "and not everybody will be happy with it, but it will be based on fairness and accuracy."

"It was not intentional, we know that," he said.

Across the Rio Grande, Claudio Bres, the mayor of Piedras Negras, said he was skeptical of Gonzalez's explanation.

"As somebody who likes the outdoors, it's really not a good enough excuse, and it's an insult to anybody's intelligence," he said.

"You don't shoot at the dark. You shoot at something you are looking at. There's no similarity between a hog and a human being.

"It's really a shame the way things are being handled," he added. "The justice system for so many months has not done anything."

Gonzalez declined comment through his father, who said, "He's just trying to forget everything. Me, too."

Lopez, a father of five who had worked illegally in the United States as a landscaper, was with about 12 others from his hometown near Victoria, in Guanajuato state.

One of two immigrants who spoke to authorities Feb. 18 said the group had heard hogs 15 to 20 minutes earlier but weren't aware of any nearby when he was hit.

"They saw a figure in the distance and they stopped. Then they heard a gunshot. Right after that they scattered into the brush," said J.A. Garcia, a San Antonio-based attorney representing Lopez's family.

Garcia said the district attorney is taking "a little too long" to push the case forward.

"It is understandable that they are upset," Serna said. "But we are not going to immediately make a decision without the facts of the matter before us."

He said the delay is partly due to the need to bring more witnesses from Guanajuato to give statements.

At least 10 immigrants have been shot in the Texas border area in the past four years.



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jbogan@expresss-news.net

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