UT San Diego: Better Conditions for Jailed Marine
AY 6, 2014
The media spotlight on the case of 25-year-old former Marine Andrew Tahmooressi has led to an improvement of his conditions in a Tijuana prison, his mother said Monday. Now, two congressmen from San Diego are pushing for his release, possibly even before a May 28 hearing.
Tahmooressi said he accidentally drove up to the San Ysidro border crossing on March 31 after missing the final U.S. exit. New to San Diego, he had all his belongings in his Ford F-150 truck — including an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .45-caliber pistol.
Mexican authorities arrested the Afghanistan combat veteran and charged him with weapons possession, a serious matter in a country with strict laws controlling the ownership of weapons.
Tahmooressi reportedly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder following two deployments to Afghanistan. He was discharged honorably in 2012 but remains in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Until Friday, he was handcuffed to his bed with restraints in Tijuana’s La Mesa Penitentiary, said his mother, Jill Tahmooressi of Florida, who credits a media campaign that she launched last week with easing his conditions.
Jail officials in Mexico said Saturday that he is no longer cuffed because he calmed down following a jailbreak attempt and cutting himself with a broken light bulb.
On Monday, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, issued a statement calling on Mexico to fast-track the legal process for Tahmooressi.
A May 28 hearing is the first realistic chance for dismissal of charges, unless the Mexican attorney general weighs in before then, according to Hunter’s spokesman.
“The facts have been presented and now it’s on Mexico to do the right thing,” Hunter said in a statement.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, issued a letter Monday to Secretary of State John Kerry in support of Tahmooressi’s case.
“I strongly request that you engage the Mexican government to ensure that Andrew receives fair treatment and an expedited hearing of the facts,” it said.
Online comments about the case have raised the question of why Tahmooressi was carrying guns around in his truck, especially considering his recent PTSD diagnosis.
In an interview Monday, Jill Tahmooressi addressed this criticism.
“I would tell anyone to research the life of a Marine that served two combat tours … who had a gun strapped to their side for four solid years,” Tahmooressi told U-T San Diego. “A Marine’s tool of the trade is a gun. No different than a carpenter who has a hammer.”
Also on Monday, friends organized a small protest outside of the Mexican consulate in San Diego and gathered signatures for a petition to the White House. Tahmooressi’s mother said similar demonstrations were held in other cities.
More than 6,000 signatures have been collected toward a goal of 100,000 by May 31, the threshold that would compel President Barack Obama to respond.
Interviewed by U-T San Diego on Saturday in jail, Tahmooressi said he simply “blew right past” the last exit on Interstate 5 heading south toward the U.S.-Mexico border that night.
He was attempting to meet friends at a restaurant in San Ysidro because, as he put it, they figured they could find good Mexican food near the border.
“I just wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “I was thinking I had a ways farther to go.”
Several signs along I-5 before the border crossing indicate “Last USA exit” and “Weapons/ammo illegal in Mexico.”
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said Monday that there is a last-resort U-turn lane at the border, attached to the U.S. customs operations building. When feasible, U.S. officials will help wrong-way drivers turn around before crossing.
But the U-turn lane is on the left side of the multi-lane freeway.
Hunter’s spokesman said better signage and a possible “diplomatic conversation” with Mexico might be considered to avoid these situations in the future.
“If the Mexican government believes it has a case, then it has a right to make that case. But more times than not, these cases are resolved and there’s no need to extend this for months,” said Joe Kasper, Hunter’s press secretary.