What happened to Claudia Patricia Gómez González? Nearing the one year anniversary of her killing at the hands of a Border Patrol agent, we still don’t know the answer to that question. It was last May when Border Patrol first claimed that Gómez González, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, and a group of others ambushed a lone agent with “blunt objects” in the Rio Bravo area of Texas. But, this was a lie.
“Marta Martinez, an eyewitness, posted a cellphone video on Facebook capturing the aftermath of the shooting,” Julia Lieblich wrote in the Chicago Tribune this week. “She can be heard shouting at an agent, ‘Why did you [shoot] at the girl? You killed her. He killed the girl. She’s laying there and she’s dead.’” She had been shot in the head. Within days, Gómez González’s body would be returned to Guatemala for burial. She was just 20 years old.
The FBI and Texas Rangers opened an investigation into her killing, but three months after her death there were still few answers. “[V]irtually nothing official is known,” BuzzFeed reported at the time, “not the name of the agent who fired the fatal shot nor the names of the three undocumented immigrants who were taken into custody as material witnesses.” Nearly a year later, nothing more is known, even “whether the border agent who fired the shot was still on leave.”
“The Senate Judiciary Committee recently demanded more information from Homeland Security about 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died while in border patrol custody,” Lieblich continues. “But I have spoken to few North Americans who remember Gomez Gonzalez’s case and the need to hold border patrol agents responsible for killings.” Nor has Lieblich been able to secure a copy of her autopsy report.
Her family needs justice, too. She left Guatemala a vibrant, bright young woman with hopes and dreams. She returned back home in a white casket. “I want justice,” her mother, Lidia, cried a few days after her killing. “Why did they do this to her? They should have just sent her back home. Why did they do this? They killed her. You are with God. I know you are with God.”
Yes, investigations take time. Yes, they can be secretive. Yes, it can feel like tragedies personal to a particular community fall by the wayside. But the Trump administration has shown a level of callousness toward the vulnerable that has been unseen in years past, and in an era when the day’s scandal is more shocking than the previous day’s scandal, the faces of people like Gómez González can be easily forgotten. As Lieblich writes, “we cannot let another case fade into oblivion.”