“There is a troubling and growing pattern of abuse and excessive use of force committed by Border Patrol agents; our community demands to know what led to such a brutal act by that plainclothes agent.” – Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee U.S. Mexico Border Program
October 1, 2012 (Chula Vista)—Family members and human rights advocates seek answers from authorities following the bizarre shooting death of Valeria Tachiquin-Alvarado, 32, mother of five young children, by a Border Patrol officer in plainclothes. A candlelight vigil for the victim is planned tonight at 6 p.m.
Witness accounts vary sharply from the initial report released by authorities. The San Diego Medical Examiner has ruled the death a homicide.
Family members say that Tachiquin-Alvarado was in the neighborhood to help a friend move and may have mistaken the gun-wielding officer for a carjacker, since he wore no uniform. She is a U.S. citizen born in America.
The tragedy occurred around 1 p.m. Friday afternoon on Moss Street in Chula Vista. According to Border Patrol Deputy Chief Rodney Scott, the agent was in the area to serve a warrant when he was struck by a car driven by the victim. Scott told media that the agent (whose name is being withheld) was carried several hundred yards on the hood of Tachiquin-Alvarado’s Honda. “Fearing for his life, he discharged his weapon to get the vehicle to stop,” Scott said.
The young mother died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. The Border Patrol agent was treated at a hospital but authorities have not released details of his condition.
Witnesses tell far different stories—raising serious questions about the Border Patrol agent’s actions.
Ashley Giuobau told ECM news partner 10 News, “I see the car just stop and the guy walking from the back of the car and coming to the front of the car and just shoot the car without saying anything.”
Area resident Hector Salazar told a U-T San Diego reporter that he was standing by his mailbox when he heard a man yell “Stop!” He said he saw a man on the hood of the car, aiming a gun at the windshield. He reported that he heard five shots.
Eduardo Camacho, another witness, said he heard seven shots fired and came outside to see what had occurred. He saw a man who he didn’t realize was an officer holding a gun and looking nervous, the Chula Vista Star News reported. “He put his gun away in his holster…the woman was laying out of her car, twitching,” Camacho said. “She was still alive.” Even after several more plain-clothes agents arrived, Camacho reported, “They didn’t do nothing to revive her.”
Family members expressed grief and outrage. “It’s heartbreaking,” Antonio Tachiquin, the victim’s brother, told 10 News. “What do I tell her children?” He said that Valeria inspired him to join the military and “pushed me to do good things.”
“I want justice,” Gilbert Alvarado, the victim’s husband, said in comments posted by U-T San Diego on Saturday.
Her father also demands answers. “I want to know `why’? What caused the Border Patrol agent to shoot my daughter multiple times?” Valentine Tachiquin said, according to a press release issued by Alliance San Diego.
Activist groups are calling for an investigation.
“There is a troubling and growing pattern of abuse and excessive use of force committed by Border Patrol agents. Our community demands to know what led to such a brutal act by that plainclothes agent,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee U.S. Mexico Border Program.
The fatal shooting comes at a time when the Border Patrol has been under fire by lawmakers calling for a “top to bottom review of CBP practices.”
“The Border Patrol continues to be an out of control agency that operates above the law,” said Christian Ramirez with Equality Alliance San Diego. “We need to continue to put pressure on Customs and Border Protection to call for transparency, accountability and justice.”
The U.S. Inspector General’s Office will review investigations being conducted by the Chula Vista Police and the Border Patrol, 10 News reports.
Friends held a car wash over the weekend to help raise money for funeral expenses and to help the family. Tachiquin-Alvarado leaves behind five children ages 3 to 17.
Tonight at 6 p.m., a candlelight vigil will be held at the corner of Broadway and Moss Street in Chula Vista with the family of the victim.