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Border Patrol changes account of migrant woman's killing as her family reels

“She left because of a great need that her family has here in Guatemala,” the young woman's cousin said.
Image: Dominga Vicente shows a photo of her niece, 20 year-old Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, who was allegedly killed by an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol in Nuevo Laredo, Texas.
Dominga Vicente shows a photo of her niece, Claudia Patricia Gómez González, who was allegedly killed by an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, in Guatemala City, on May 25. Moises Castillo / AP

The family of the young Guatemalan woman shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent last week said they want their daughter’s body returned to them and for the man who killed her to be held accountable.

Claudia Patricia Gómez González, 19, was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent on Wednesday near the Mexican border in Rio Bravo, Texas, about 10 miles south of Laredo.

“I want justice. Why did they do this to her? They should have just sent her back home,” said the woman’s mother, Lidia González, in between sobs on Friday. Her two other daughters cried alongside her as she spoke to Telemundo in San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala.

“Why did they do this? They killed her,” she said in Spanish, wailing. “You are with God. I know you are with God.”

Guatemala's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which released the identity of the person killed, met with the woman’s family on Friday to discuss repatriating Gómez’s body.

Claudia Patricia Gómez González
Claudia Patricia Gómez González

“Guatemala reiterates its rejection of this type of acts of violence and any excessive use of force by the border patrol, and calls for the rights of our compatriots to be respected at all times, regardless of their immigration status, especially the right to life,” the ministry said in a statement.

The family’s mourning comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection changed their original account of what led to Gómez death in an updated statement on Friday.

The agency said in the updated statement that the agent, a 15-year veteran, was responding to a report of “illegal activity” around 12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. ET) Wednesday near a culvert in Rio Bravo when he encountered a group of people he suspected of being in the country illegally and “ordered them to get on the ground.”

“According to the agent, the group ignored his verbal commands and instead rushed him,” the statement said. “The agent discharged one round from his service-issued firearm, striking one member of the group.”

The agency’s original statement issued Wednesday said the group of migrants started to hit him with “blunt objects,” while the new statement makes no mention of any objects. The earlier statement also said the agent fired at least one shot, “fatally wounding one of the assailants” as opposed to the updated language of “one member of the group.”

The agency canceled a news conference planned for Friday afternoon on the shooting and instead released the updated statement.

“The agent broadcasted shots fired over the service radio and called for EMS,” the Friday statement said. “First aid was rendered to the woman until the Rio Bravo Fire Department arrived.”

Three migrants who had fled the scene of the shooting were later apprehended by immigration authorities, it added.

The incident is under investigation by the FBI and the Texas Rangers, along with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the statement said. The agent is on administrative leave, per agency policy.

The woman’s father, Gilberto Gómez, told Telemundo in Spanish, “It’s hard. It’s hard. What I ask is that they please send the body of my daughter the fastest they can.”

He added that the family wants justice on the agent that killed his daughter.

“I think he doesn’t have a heart and for that, we want justice so that he pays for what he did,” he said. “She left with the desire to better her life, but she never could.”

“She was loving,” he said, bursting into tears.

Yosimar Morales, Gómez’s boyfriend, has lived in the U.S. for the last year and said the young woman was hoping to reunite with him.

He spoke with her just one day before she was killed. Morales said she would never try to attack a border agent.

“I know her and she’d never try to impose on anyone,” he said in Spanish.

Gómez’ cousin, Vicente Pérez, said the young woman was escaping poverty in Guatemala and wanted to help support her family.

“She left because of a great need that her family has here in Guatemala,” he said.