On Wednesday near Laredo, Texas, an agent with the Border Patrol shot and killed Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, an unarmed Guatemalan woman who was entering the country. And that was only the beginning of a changing narrative of what the agency said happened to her.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala identified the woman as Gomez, a 19-year-old from San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala, on Friday. The original press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection claimed the agency was responding to reports of "illegal activity" near a culvert in Rio Bravo, Texas, when an agent was attacked by multiple people with "blunt objects." That's when he shot at least one round and killed Gómez while the other alleged assailants fled, according to the agency's initial release about the incident.
In an interview with The New York Times, however, the woman who lives next to the shooting site said the agency's description of events wasn't true. She told the newspaper that she didn't see any weapons that could have been used in the described attack, and the property where the incident took place doesn't have the described culvert. "They were on the very corner on that lot where there was a tree," said Marta V. Martinez, in an interview Thursday morning with The New York Times. "There was no weapon. They were hiding."
The young woman's aunt, Dominga Vicente, spoke at a news conference in Guatemala City on Friday, saying Gomez had gone to the United States to look for a job. “This is not the first person dying in the United States,” she said at the conference, which also announced her niece's identity. “There are many people that have been treated like animals, and that isn’t what we should do as people.”
A reporter with nonprofit news outlet Reveal (run by the Center for Investigative Reporting) tweeted that sources said Gomez's death was captured on Facebook Live, the live-streaming service created by the social network. NPR reported that Martinez, the neighbor, livestreamed after the incident.
On Friday, the agency released another statement about the shooting with a different sequence of events. In the new statement, the Border Patrol officer told the group of people "to get on the ground," but "the group ignored his verbal commands and instead rushed him." The statement also mentioned that the officer was a 15-year veteran of the agency, and he has been put on administration leave pending investigation.
Now, the official statement identifies Gomez as a "member of the group" as opposed to "assailant" in the original statement. The statement still says the officer fired one round.
It was after that shot that Martinez ran outside and started filming on her cellphone. Martinez later gave an interview with the Los Angeles Times where she said seeing interactions between immigrants and law enforcement isn't unusual."When I started to film and I saw the woman, I got mad, so I started shouting at the man," she told the newspaper, referring to the border patrol agent. You can watch Martinez's video at this link.
These events aren't happening in a vacuum. Both the Associated Press and The New York Times reported in April that the Department of Health and Human Services had lost nearly 1,500 migrant children last year. After their initial contact with law enforcement, unaccompanied minors are put in the custody of adult sponsors and tracked by the department; however, the current location of many is no longer known. There was renewed attention on these 1,475 children because Friday was National Missing Children's Day.
It's revelations like the nearly 1,500 missing migrant children and photos of immigrant children at detention facilities in America that are fueling online and real-life fervor about the fatal shooting of Gomez. Gomez is being added to the reasons for protests against U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Trump administration.