Esequiel Hernandez, Jr.

From Holden:

Many Texans like myself remember what happened the last time the US military patrolled near the US-Mexico border: a team of Marine snipers shot and killed an 18-year-old US citizen, Esequiel Hernandez, Jr. Hernandez was tending a flock of goats within sight of his home while carrying an antique, single-shot .22 calibre rifle.

The Marines sniper team, sent to the border to hunt narcotics trafficers, claimed Hernandez had fired at them with his pitiful rifle, meant to protect his flock from wild dogs and kill rattle snakes. A crack team of Marine snipers shot an 18-year-old goatherd in the back and left him to bleed to death on the ground as they debated what to do next, making Hernandez the first U.S. citizen killed by military troops on U.S. soil since 1970, when four unarmed students were killed by National Guard soldiers at Kent State University.

From the Drug Policy Forum of Texas memorial page:

On May 20, 1997, Esequiel Hernandez, Jr. was herding his family’s goats 100 yards from his home on the US-Mexican border in Redford, Texas, as he did every day. Six days before, he had turned 18 years old.

Unknown to Esequiel or any of the other residents of Redford, a group of four Marines led by 22-year old Corporal Clemente Banuelos had been encamped just outside the small village along the Rio Grande River for three days. After watering his small flock of goats in the river, Esequiel started on his way back home when the Marines began stalking him from a distance of 200 yards.

The four camouflaged Marines were outfitted with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and weapons. Esequiel carried an antique .22 caliber rifle — a pre-World War I, single shot rifle to keep wild dogs and rattlesnakes away from his goats. The autopsy showed that Esequiel was facing away from the Marines when he was shot. He probably never knew the Marines were watching him from 200 yards away.

Thus it was that a 22 year-old United States Marine shot and killed an innocent 18 year-old boy tending his family’s goats. This outrageous act was the inevitable consequence of a drug prohibition policy gone mad. Esequiel Hernandez was killed not by drugs but by military officers of the United States government.

The gravesite of Esequiel Hernandez, Jr. Standing at this spot one can see where he was killed, where he was born and the church where he was laid out. Photo courtesy of James H. Evans.

Alicia Caldwell returns to Redford and updates the story.