TIJUANA.- Andrew Tahmooressi — 25 year-old Marine veteran from Florida — was arrested at the Tijuana/San Ysidro border on April 1 after apparently getting lost in the dark in a borrowed black Ford and accidentally entering into Mexico, a country with very strict gun laws.
His mother Jill has stated that he was diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) on March 20, after having served several combat tours in Afghanistan. Tahmooressi was in San Diego seeking treatment for this disorder, which his mother — who is a nurse — says has left him with directional dysfunctionality, severe depression and a slew of other symptoms. She says that the young Marine reservist frequently gets lost, and that this — combined with lack of proper signage — caused him to unintentionally enter the country with firearms in his possession.
Tahmooressi had yet to establish himself in San Diego and was still looking for a permanent place to stay, which apparently is why he had most of his possessions in his vehicle with him — amongst them three registered firearms and ammunition. He phoned his mother from the border — as Mexican officials surrounded his truck —to explain the situation. The following day his mother received word that he had been arrested on gun charges and was to be held “indefinitely” at the La Mesa Prison.
She said that they had both assumed that the officials would let him turn back and re-enter the US. “You’re a football field away from Mexico and you don’t even know it,” Jill Tahmooressi said, in an interview with Fox News. “It’s irresponsible that the U.S. government who protects our borders can’t provide good signage.”
She fears for her son’s safety and claims that he has received multiple threats while incarcerated. In general population, amongst every class of criminal (murderers, gang members, etc.) he has feared for his life several times. His mother stated, “Gang hit-men told him he was going to be raped, tortured, killed and leave the prison in a body bag.” At some point he attempted to escape from the La Mesa prison by scaling a barbed-wire fence, only to be caught be prison guards in mid-attempt. He then suffered a self-inflicted stab wound to the neck — after breaking a light bulb — later receiving medical attention for his wounds.
Many are demanding his swift release, and U.S. government officials are now getting involved in this case. Tahmooressi was allegedly shackled in his cell afterwards to prevent further harm to himself. U.S. Consulate General officials in Tijuana have been observing the case and now Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has stepped in to assist his family and attempt to seek his release, or at the very least get him transferred out of general population.
In 2012 a different marine, John Hammar, was arrested at the border with Texas, after declaring an antique firearm that he was trying to bring into Mexico. His mother stated, “In our case, Johnny disclosed that he had the gun and in Andrew’s he just wanted to turn around. This is not how gunrunners behave. They want to get into a country and they don’t declare the guns.”
This case, at first glance, appears to be an unfortunate mishap, caused by taking a wrong turn somewhere near the border. The apparently severe repercussions he is now facing for entering Mexico with illegal weapons is, however, possibly a justifiable reaction by Mexican officials if we consider the role that U.S. citizens and federal officials have played in mass weapons smuggling into Mexico over the past years and if we consider the disastrously failed ATF (United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) operation know as Fast and Furious, which involved allowing the “gunwalking” into Mexico of thousands of U.S.-sold lethal firearms that eventually made their way into the hands of cartel members, gangs and criminals.
Two of these weapons were found at the 2010 murder scene of Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry. The Los Angeles Times reported that at least 40 high-powered assault weapons that “went missing” during Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation ended up in the possession of “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel’s enforcer, Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo. Mexican officials claim to have had no knowledge of the ATF’s operation and say that they were not informed of the massive undertaking. The scandal surrounding the operation appears to have died down, but experts say that its effects will be felt for years, as these weapons continue to be used by cartels and will be linked to many more murders and narcos. Two of the guns that were linked back to the operation belonged to former U.S. marine Ranferi Osorio and some have even been discovered to have been purchased by federal officials themselves — such was the case of a powerful government–issued Five-seven handgun that was registered to former ATF agent George Gillett Jr., who oversaw operation Fast and Furious from October 2009 to April 2010. He reportedly purchased several guns, including a pistol that was found at a brutal crime scene in Sinaloa, using false addresses — in one case registered with the address of a local shopping center, and in another he listed the address of the Phoenix ATF office.
So, knowing all of this, the stance that Mexican officials have taken in this case seems far less unreasonable. As an experiment in role-reversal, let’s ponder the consequences a Mexican citizen would face in the opposite situation — attempting to enter the United States with several non-permitted firearms in his vehicle. One could assume that they would be very severe, considering that blind mules often face years behind bars.
Tahmooressi’s mother claims that there is insufficient signage, yet any visitor who drives through the San Ysidro border frequently surely has the signage etched into memory.
While some U.S. representatives insist that this was an accident, committed by an innocent disoriented marine, the fact that Mexico is a sovereign nation in the midst of a horrifically violent drug war makes the importance of investigating this case — and others like it — to the fullest extent a necessary priority.
Jill Tahmooressi has started a White House petition, hoping that the U.S. government will intervene and help regain her son’s freedom.