A California congressman sent a letter Friday to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to secure the release of a U.S. Marine veteran jailed in Tijuana after he drove into Mexico with three legally owned guns in his truck last month.
Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter said in the letter that Afghanistan war veteran Andrew Tahmooressi had just moved to San Diego from Florida and had all his belongings in his truck, including his pistol, shotgun and rifle, when he missed the last U.S. exit on April 1, forcing him to cross the border.
Road closures because of checkpoints and construction added to the confusion, and there was no opportunity for drivers to turn around, Hunter added.
The 25-year-old was arrested by Mexican federal authorities on weapons charges and is being held at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. Mexican officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
"Andrew is neither a criminal nor a weapons trafficker, and his incarceration is an extraordinarily unfortunate occurrence," wrote Hunter, a Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. "I am confident this situation can be resolved quickly through the continued attention and support of the U.S. State Department, but I remain concerned for Andrew's safety and well-being as a prisoner in Mexico."
State Department officials said they were aware of an arrest of a U.S. citizen in Mexico, but they do not comment on arrests of private individuals without the person's permission.
Hunter wrote that Tahmooressi was recently treated at the prison infirmary for a knife wound to his neck, Hunter said.
His mother, Jill Tahmooressi, said her son took one wrong turn in the dark and found himself in Mexico. She visited him April 14, and he told her he initially was threatened by other detainees, though he did not explain the neck wound. He told her he had been placed in solitary confinement briefly. He called her Sunday and told her has been chained to a cot.
Jill Tahmooressi said her son moved to San Diego to get treatment for his recently diagnosed post-traumatic stress, after returning from his second tour to Afghanistan in 2012. He finished active duty in 2012 and is now in the Marine Reserve.
"He's not had suicidal inclinations. But you never know after having his life in danger, and (having to) go through this ordeal," said the nurse from Weston, Florida. "Andrew's hopeless, and I've become hopeless."
There have been similar cases in the past. In 2008, an active-duty Army soldier was jailed in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, for driving into Mexico with guns, knives and ammunition. Former Army Spc. Richard R. Medina Torres also said he was lost and missed the last U.S. exit. He spent a little over a month in jail before being released.