Immigration & Labor

Shots Across the Border

When US Border Patrol agent shoots and kills a Mexican citizen, across an international border, is it an act of war?
Nora Isabel Lam Gallegos, widow of Guillermo Arevalo.
FUSION
Nora Isabel Lam Gallegos, widow of Guillermo Arevalo.

On September 12, 2012, Guillermo Arevalo and his family were enjoying a picnic along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, a celebration of the birthdays of his wife and two daughters. Families with children were everywhere, swimming, eating, and relaxing in the sun. Then, with no warning, Border Patrol agents opened fire on the crowd from a patrol boat in the river, and Arevalo was shot dead. The incident, caught on camera, shows Arevalo's wife Nora Isabel Lam Gallegos running to her husband, who is lying face up on the ground. “They killed him! They killed him!” she yells on the grainy tape, as agents slow their engines before speeding upriver.

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According to official reports, US Border Patrol agents acted in response to people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border. But as one eye-witness said, “Even if rocks were thrown, the Border Patrol agents were so far away on the other side of the river, they couldn't even reach them.”

In a segment for Fusion's Open Source with Leon Krauze, Investigative Fund reporter John Carlos Frey reports on what happened that day, traveling to the site of the shooting to talk to Gallegos. “We didn't think they were going to shoot him. And then he fell to the ground,” she says. When her girls ran to their father, blood was coming out of his month.

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“A bullet from the United States,” Frey explains, “actually crossed the Mexican border and killed someone standing in Mexico.”

Over a year later, no agents have been charged in the shooting, and Arevalo's widow has not been apprised of any U.S. investigation. As far as Gallegos knows, the agent who shot her husband might still be patrolling the river today. For their part, Mexican authorities have also declined to bring the case to court.

This story was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

About the reporters

John Carlos Frey

John Carlos Frey

John Carlos Frey is an investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles.

Rayner Ramirez

Rayner Ramirez

Rayner Ramirez is a producer at CBS News.