Marine Remains Shackled to Cot in Mexican Prison

Friday, 02 May 2014 02:24 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A decorated U.S. Marine, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after two combat tours in Afghanistan, is chained to a cot in a prison infirmary in Mexico after he was arrested on charges of bringing illegal weapons into the country.

Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, of Weston, Fla., was arrested after he drove his truck through the San Ysidro, Calif., border crossing into Tijuana on April 1, reports Stars and Stripes. The Marine reservist, along with his other possessions in the truck, had three U.S. -registered firearms tucked away.

Tahmooressi suffers from "directional dysfunction," says his mother, and he got lost near the border after dark and took a wrong turn into Mexico.

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"He is crippled," his mother, Jill Tahmooressi, told Miami television station WSVN from her home. "He is crippled mentally, he is crippled physically. He's been restrained, four-point restrained in chains."

Mexican prosecutors charged him with three firearms charges, and he's been shackled, with each of his limbs attached to his cot, after he tried to scale a wall, "ninja-style" at the La Mesa prison and escape a week after his capture, Stars and Stripes reports.

After his escape attempt, which came when he was put in the general prison population, he was placed in a single-person cell, where he stabbed himself in the neck in a suicide attempt or a ploy. After he got stitches, he was put in the infirmary, where he has remained shackled.

The arrested reservist's situation is being compared to that of another Florida Marine, Jon Hammer, who was held for four months in a border prison in 2012 for possession of an antique shotgun in his motor home, while he was heading to Costa Rica to surf. Pressure from U.S. lawmakers and the media led to his release.

Tahmooressi signed a statement earlier this week saying he accidentally crossed the border while looking for housing in San Diego so he could start treatment at a Veterans Administration hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder, after he was officially diagnosed with the syndrome on March 20.

"I accidentally drove into Mexico with three guns, a rifle (AR-15), a .45-caliber pistol and a 12-gauge pump shotgun with no intention on being in Mexico or being involved in any criminal activity," Tahmooressi wrote in a privacy waiver this week for the office of U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine veteran whose district is near the border.

The Marine reservist, who grew up in a gated community in Weston, Fla., earned a pilot's license at age 17 and then headed to Alaska's Kodiak Island to join a commercial fishing crew before returning to Florida and joining the Marines.

While serving during his two combat tours in Afghanistan, he won a rare combat field promotion to sergeant and was honorably discharged in 2012, with a commitment to serve as a reservist until 2016.

But although he'd hoped to become a professional pilot, he was "struggling for all of 2013," so he borrowed his family's truck and drive to California, where he received the PTSD evaluation.

Stars and Stripes reports U.S. officials have visited Tahmooressi at least nine times since his arrest, and the Tijuana consulate is taking steps to ensure his safety, American Citizen Services Chief William Whitaker said in an email to the office of Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Whitaker said Tahmooressi is restrained because he is in an open room with many sharp objects, but his cuffs are doubled in length so he can move around.

A trial is set to begin May 28, and Tahmooressi's VA records have been presented to a judge.

"We learned today that the prison system intends to move Andrew to another penitentiary called El Hongo II, a new facility located near the town of Tecate, about 40 minutes east of Tijuana," Whitaker wrote in a letter to the Marine's mother. "There, he will be in a single cell."

Whitaker said he expects Tahmooressi will be moved in about a week.

A spokesperson for Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is chairwoman of  the Democratic National Committee, said she has told her staff to get in touch with the State Department to ensure Tahmooressi's case was being handled properly.

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