Family of dead Mexican migrant sues US government - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Family of dead Mexican migrant sues US government

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — A wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government charges that a Mexican man was beaten by immigration agents before one of them fired a stun gun several times as he lie on the ground.

The family of Anastacio Hernandez argues in its suit that agents used excessive force at a San Diego border crossing on May 28, killing the 42-year-old construction worker.

Family attorney Eugene Iredale said key evidence includes a witness' cell-phone audio of Hernandez crying for help and a witness telling agents to stop.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Diego, seeks unspecified damages.

"This was a man who was frightened and who was really, at the time, pleading for his life," Iredale said at a news conference that was organized by the Mexican consulate in San Diego.

Jackie Wasiluk, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said she would not comment on pending litigation. San Diego police have said an unnamed customs and border officer fired the stun gun.

The San Diego County coroner has ruled the death a homicide. The cause was determined to be a heart attack, with methamphetamine abuse and hypertension listed as contributing factors.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has vigorously denounced the incident, saying a death "with that degree of violence is a truly unacceptable violation." The consulate said in a statement Wednesday that the Mexican government "reiterates its strongest condemnation of the incident that led to the death of one of its citizens."

Iredale said the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division was reviewing a San Diego police investigation.

The government denied the family's administrative claim for damages last month, a required precursor for a lawsuit. Iredale said he will now gain access to police reports and names of the agents involved.

Hernandez had lived in the San Diego area for more than 20 years, according to the lawsuit. He is survived by his partner, Maria Puga, and their five children, ages 4 to 20.

Relatives have told the American Friends Service Committee that Hernandez was deported last May after being stopped for a traffic violation in San Diego. He returned to the U.S. through the rugged mountains east of San Diego and was arrested by the Border Patrol. He was being escorted back to Tijuana, Mexico, when he was shot with the stun gun.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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