Mexican consul, El Centro police clash over BB/pellet gun

May 23, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

The Mexican consul based in Calexico and El Centro police officers learned a little from each other when the two came into contact, and conflict, over a BB/pellet rifle incident Sunday.

Mexican Consul Alfredo Benitez Hernández learned it's against the law to shoot a BB gun in the city while El Centro police learned the consul's living quarters are considered Mexican territory and his diplomatic immunity actually extends well beyond his quarters.

The two parties clashed over the shooting of pigeons, or more precisely, plans to shoot pigeons.

A report from El Centro police stated officers were dispatched to an apartment complex on the 1700 block of West Main Street in reference to a man carrying a rifle.


That man, they soon found out, was Benitez. What he was carrying, apparently, was a BB rifle.

A U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officer who lives in the complex told police Benitez appeared to be trying to hide the rifle from him when they passed. The INS officer then called police.

Police went to the apartment where Benitez lives. His wife answered the door after police knocked and identified themselves.

The report stated Benitez's wife let police in the apartment and led them to a bedroom, where they found Benitez watching television.

The report states officers tried to explain to Benitez he could not shoot a BB gun in the city limits but he would not listen, saying he spoke "no English." They said he kept asking them to leave and flashing documents saying he had diplomatic immunity.

While outside the apartment the officers continued to tell Benitez he could not shot pigeons with a BB rifle in the city limits. The report states Benitez became irate at that point.

It states Benitez kept waving his finger back and forth saying he had diplomatic immunity and they could do nothing to him. The officers eventually took Benitez card stating he is the Mexican consul and left. He was not arrested or cited.

Benitez's version of the story is a bit different.

He said his wife didn't allow the officers in the apartment, saying they barged in after his wife told the officers to wait at the door.

Benitez told a reporter he asked the officer to leave because he felt it was an insult to walk into his bedroom while he was watching television in his underwear. He said he was able to put on a pair of pants as the officers walked in.

He added the officers were apologetic and courteous and did leave after he explained to them he was the Mexican consul.

He also said he wasn't refusing to listen to what officers had to say, he just wanted them to leave his apartment and he gladly spoke to them outside.

He told the officers they were in violation of international consul laws. He said because he is a foreign consul, his office, vehicle and residence are considered Mexican territory, therefore no U.S. law enforcement officials can enter without permission.

Benitez said his plan for the gun was simply to try to get rid of a colony of pigeons that had been a growing problem since he moved into the apartments a couple months ago. He said he had not actually shot at the pigeons. He said he was going to shoot the pigeons that day but something was blocking his shot.

He added he did not know it was illegal to shoot a BB rifle within the city limits. He also said he was not hiding the BB rifle from the INS officer. Benitez said he did not even see the INS officer.

Benitez said at his home in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, he had shot at pigeons to get rid of them. He said the pellets did not kill the pigeons, but simply scared them enough so they never returned. That's what he was trying to do at his El Centro apartment.

On Monday, Benitez spoke to El Centro Police Chief Raymond Loera.

Benitez said he offered Loera and the Police Department a presentation on laws pertaining to the consul, which Loera accepted.

Benitez added the incident was simply a miscommunication and both parties learned a little from each other.

Loera was not available for comment today.

>>Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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