L.A. Resident Jose Gutierrez, in Coma After Being Tased by Arizona Border Agents, Threatened With Deportation While Still Unconscious
Gutierrez' skull had to be removed after a tussle with CBP agents, who won't provide surveillance or specifics
Updated after the jump: Jose is coming home.
Forty-one-year-old Jose Gutierrez has lived in the U.S. since he was a kid. Until three weeks ago, he shared a house in the affluent Valley neighborhood of Woodland Hills with U.S. citizen Shena Wilson and their two children, held a solid job as a film engineer and served as frontman for the popular Spanish-rock band FZ10.
However, Gutierrez is undocumented.
After the L.A. Immigration Court deported him on March 21, Wilson says she lost touch with her husband, but guessed he would try to come back, seeing as their youngest -- a five-month-old baby girl -- was in the hospital. (Not to mention he has no roots in Mexico.)
The next she heard of him, Gutierrez was in a coma at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.
Wilson got a call from the Mexican consulate in Yuma, Arizona, saying, "We have to let you know that there has been an accident."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will only tell Wilson that, on March 30, her husband made it to the second inspection at the San Luis point of entry in Arizona before he "got scared and tried to run back." When he allegedly tried to fight off CBP agents, they whipped out a taser.
Here's the CBP account:
An individual being processed for entering the country illegally March 30, at the San Luis Port attempted to flee into Mexico. The man was combative, ignored commands to halt and subsequently was subdued by CBP officers using an electronic control device (ECD). Initial reports say the man struck his head on the ground during the incident.
Emergency medical personnel responded to the scene and took him to a local area hospital for further medical attention.
We regret the injury and will continue to actively cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
Gutierrez and Wilson share a home in Woodland Hills
respres via Flickr
Wilson says taser marks are all over Guttierez' chest and arms, and his tooth is out of place. He has two black eyes (which nurses tell Wilson are from the head injury) and part of his skull has been removed to relieve pressure. No one will give her any additional information about the incident.
Currently, there are two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers standing guard outside Gutierrez' hospital room 24 hours a day, as he lies there like a vegetable.
Meanwhile, Wilson claims a St. Joseph's social worker has told her that -- because Gutierrez is illegal -- he has no rights outside imprisonment, and is ineligible for medical care inside the U.S.
"They tell me, 'Don't worry, we'll move him back home,'" Wilson says. "But he's lived here all his life. I'm like, 'Stop calling it his home.'"
Here's a portion of the statement that St. Joseph's Hospital sent the Weekly:
St. Joseph's will never move a patient without a safe discharge plan. Our commitment is always to work in collaboration with the family to get their agreement on this plan. St. Joseph's is dedicated to working with patients and their families to provide a safe discharge from its acute care setting to longer term care facilities when a patient needs this.
Update: Donations to the victim's family can be made to Chase bank, account No. 3112901538.
In order to appease Repubicans, President Obama's otherwise progressive health-care bill excluded everyone besides citizens (even permanent residents and green-card holders) from its umbrella.
Meanwhile, deportations have surged to record highs since the Democrat took office -- the majority of deportees being non-criminals.
Jose Gutierrez is hooked up to a feeding tube in Phoenix
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, says that taxpayers would be right to question medical coverage of an undocumented immigrant. Instead, here's his main concern:
"The only argument that we're making is, while the investigation is ongoing, that the Border Patrol should take care of his bills," Cabrera says. "They should take care of this man's health for the benefit of the children and the family [who are all U.S. citizens], and certainly because this is a very questionable incident."
According to Cabrera, Gutierrez was deported once before on DUI charges (no one was hurt), but the 41-year-old's second and most recent deportation was non-criminal. He explains that citizenship is increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain, even through marriage, and that many are frightened to apply amid the country's Arizona-led state of paranoia.
Wilson has been told there is no surveillance of the incident. She's unaware of what, exactly, ocurred between the tasering on Wednesday and her husband's brain operation on Thursday.
The L.A. mom maintains that Gutierrez has no history of violence and "wouldn't risk his life [amid] 20 armed men with guns."
Ironically, before this whole ordeal, Gutierrez wrote a song called "ICE" for his L.A. band, in which he critiques the criminalization of immigration in America. He's the one on the mic:
Check back for updates on Gutierrez' condition and the CBP investigation. And watch the Univision broadcast on his family's horrific ordeal for footage from the hospital and a tearful interview with Wilson:
Update, April 14, 7:15 p.m.: Wilson calls us panicked this evening. She says St. Joseph's Hospital officials tell her they won't keep Gutierrez past tomorrow, even though he's still in a coma and hooked up to a breathing machine. And even though -- get this -- the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted him a temporary pass to stay in America, and his job has offered him COBRA insurance.
Still, the hospital maintains it can do nothing, because Gutierrez is in custody for trying to cross the border. CBP tells Wilson's attorneys that Gutierrez will be deported to Cima Hospital in Hermosillo, Mexico between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. tomorrow.
Wilson alleges the St. Joseph's doctor told her: He's illegal, so he can't stay here.
"But he needs to stay here," she says. "They did this to him here, and they need to take care of him here."
Gutierrez' temperature has been fluctuating between 99 to 102 degrees, and he has mild case of pneumonia in addition to his coma.
"The doctor just tells me, 'Don't worry. He can take his respirator with him,'" says Wilson.
Update, April 15, 6:30 p.m.: Wilson sent us the following text today:
"He was granted the stay! He is now out of custody and free to be retransferred to CA by the next week!! ... The battle isn't done, we still have a ways ahead of us to fight... But thank god that for now he's out of custody and ready to be transferred to LA."
According to CHIRLA spokesman Cabrera, the Weekly's news story "helped a social mobilization take off on Facebook" -- to the extent that there were rallies held outside the hospital last night and today, causing the hospital and CBP to cave and let Gutierrez return to his hometown.
"I believe we're moving towards something important," Cabrera says.
So do we. Gutierrez' tasing and head injury deserve a much deeper investigation, but for now, he's living (if comatose) proof of the backward U.S. immigration policy, and his case has touched thousands.
We wish Jose a speedy recovery in this country he calls home.
Originally posted April 12 at 12:15 p.m.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.
- HIV Is Officially a Bedfellow in Porn
- The Porter Ranch Gas Leak Has Been Stopped
- Rain Could Douse This February Heat Wave. Maybe.