(Sun Sentinel) -- Prison authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, have shackled a decorated U.S. Marine veteran of two combat tours in Afghanistan to his cot in a prison infirmary, restraining each of his limbs, on charges of introducing outlawed weapons into Mexico.
The Marine reservist, Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, who is from Weston, Fla., outside Miami, drove his black Ford F-150 pickup through the San Ysidro, Calif., border crossing into Tijuana on April 1, carrying his worldly possessions, including three U.S.-registered firearms.
Tahmooressi, who suffers from what his mother calls “directional dysfunction,” got lost near the border after dark. He and his family say he took a wrong turn into Mexico.
Mexican prosecutors have slapped three firearms charges on him, and his fate has been clouded by an attempt to escape the La Mesa penitentiary April 6 that involved ninja-style scaling of a wall topped with coiled barbed wire.
Tahmooressi’s situation parallels that of a another Florida Marine veteran who was held for four months in a Mexican border prison in 2012 for carrying an antique shotgun in his motor home on his way to surf in Costa Rica. A media uproar and pressure from U.S. legislators helped win the freedom of that Marine, Jon Hammar, who grew up in Miami.
In a statement that he signed earlier this week, Tahmooressi said he had crossed the border inadvertently while he was looking for housing in the San Diego area so he could begin treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at a nearby Veterans Affairs facility. Tahmooressi had received his official PTSD diagnosis on March 20.
“I accidentally drove into Mexico with 3 guns, a rifle (AR-15), a .45 cal pistol and a 12 gauge pump shotgun with no intentions on being in Mexico or being involved in any criminal activity,” Tahmooressi wrote in a signed privacy waiver this week for the office of U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine veteran himself whose district is near the border.
Tahmooressi grew up in a gated community in Weston and graduated with honors from Cypress Bay High School in 2007. He earned a pilot’s license at age 17, then headed off to Alaska’s Kodiak Island, where he fulfilled a dream of joining a commercial fishing crew.
“They went out into the Bering Sea. They pulled up something like 20,000 pounds of halibut a day,” said his mother, Jill Marie Tahmooressi, a nurse at Miami Children’s Hospital.
After returning to Florida and entering a local community college, Andrew Tahmooressi decided he wasn’t ready for schooling, and joined the Marines in 2008.
He served two combat tours in Afghanistan, winning a rare combat field promotion to sergeant in Helmand province. Earlier, in Marjah district, a homemade bomb upended his combat vehicle but he survived.
In 2012, Tahmooressi mustered out with an honorable discharge but he remains a reservist with a commitment until 2016.