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Marines given immunity in border shooting probe

Map of Texas August 13, 1997
Web posted at: 10:42 p.m. EDT (0242 GMT)

MARFA, Texas (CNN) -- Three members of a Marine patrol have been offered immunity as a grand jury considers charges against a fourth Marine in the shooting death of a Texas teen-ager.

Presidio County District Attorney Albert Valadez said Wednesday he had offered the three immunity in return for their voluntary testimony about the incident. The three are scheduled to testify Thursday.

The grand jury is considering whether to file charges against Marine Cpl. Clemente Banuelos in the shooting of Esequiel Hernandez Jr. Hernandez was shot near his Redford home May 20 while tending the family's goat herd.

The Marines, who were on a three-day anti-drug patrol along the Rio Grande River, told authorities that Banuelos shot Hernandez he fired at them twice with a .22-caliber rifle and was preparing to fire a third time.

Texas Rangers who investigated the shooting say the evidence does not match the Marines' story. They noted that Hernandez, who was shot in his right rib cage, was not facing Banuelos at the time of the shooting.

In a related development, the chairman of the House immigration subcommittee accused the Justice Department on Wednesday of "stonewalling" his panel's inquiry into the shooting. In a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said he and his investigators have been thwarted in their bid to uncover Border Patrol lapses in the shooting.


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