The mother of a U.S. marine being held captive in a Mexican prison feels like she’s living a nightmare. Jill Tahmooressi’s son Andrew survived two combat tours overseas but now fears for his life every day after a genuine mistake near the U.S. - Mexico border landed him in prison.
Andrew Tahmooressi was driving to meet up with a friend on March 31 this year when he made a wrong turn. He was driving through Southern California when he made the mistake, and before he knew it was approaching the Mexican border.
“I was going to call them after I drove off the exit, but I never got off the exit, I blew right past it,” Tahmooressi told U-T San Diego in an interview from jail. “I wasn’t paying attention, thinking I had way farther to go. I ended up in Mexico with no way to turn around.”
When Tahmooressi reached the border, he told Mexican patrol agents he’d gone the wrong way and only wanted to turn around. His truck was packed with all of his belongings at the time, which included three legal, registered guns. You can probably see where this is going.
Tahmooressi immediately told the agents about the guns in his car. Nevertheless, they suspected he was trying to illegally run the guns into the country and arrested him. He was taken to La Mesa prison in Tijuana, where he is now being held without bail.
The decorated U.S. veteran received daily death threats upon entering the prison. One day, he was certain the men threatening him were not bluffing. His mother recalled the terrifying phone call she received from Andrew that night.
“He called me one night and he said in a panicked voice, he said, ‘Mom I’m not going to make it through the night,’” Jill Tahmooressi quotes her son saying. “’There’s hit men in here, they have told me they are going to kill me. They’re going to rape and then torture and murder me and they’re going to send me out in a body bag.’”
Tahmooressi felt he had no choice but to attempt an escape. He hopped a gate and scaled a wall up onto a rooftop. Moments later he was spotted, and gave up his attempt to flee when a guard opened fire. He is now back in prison, waiting for U.S. and Mexico officials to negotiate his release.
Bill Whitaker, the American Citizens Services chief at Tijuana’s U.S. consulate, says he and other U.S. officials are doing everything in their power to expedite Tahmooressi’s release.
“The Consulate is taking all possible steps to assist the Tahmooressi family while working within the guidelines of the Mexican penal system,” Whitaker said in a letter. “In addition to visiting Mr. Tahmooressi, the Consulate has made several visits to the judge who will hear the case and is working closely with Mrs. Tahmooressi to gather medical records, affidavits and translations for court submission for Mr. Tahmooressi’s hearing on May 28, 2014.”
For a mother whose son fears for his life every day in prison, May 28 is a long way off.
“The nightmare is getting worse and worse,” Jill Tahmooressi said. “He was brave and survived [his tours in Afghanistan], but now we have him in a Mexican prison with no help or relief.”