FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CR
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1998 (202) 616-2777
TDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Justice Department has closed a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Ezequiel Hernandez, Jr., who was shot on the Texas/Mexico border last May. U.S. Marine Corporal Clement Banuelos, who was participating in a federal drug interdiction operation, fatally shot the 18 year old high school student who was herding goats near his home in Redford, Texas.
The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to prosecute Corporal Banuelos under federal criminal civil rights law. To successfully prosecute Corporal Banuelos under federal law, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he willfully interfered with Hernandez' constitutionally protected rights. To prove willfulness, prosecutors must show that Corporal Banuelos knew that shooting Mr. Hernandez was a violation of law, and deliberately did so anyway. The Department concluded that there was insufficient evidence to rebut Corporal Banuelos' claim that he shot Mr. Hernandez because he thought that Mr. Hernandez, who was armed, was about to shoot another Marine.
The federal investigation followed a local grand jury investigation at which jurors, last August, decided not to indict the Marine on first degree murder charges. The local grand jury was conducted by the Texas district attorney in Marfa, Texas.
Justice Department officials have met with the victim's family and their attorney to discuss the decision.
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