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The Daily Tar Heel

Area Hispanics `Frustrated' by Mistake Shooting

Mauricio Castro, president of the Board of Directors of El Centro Latino, said last week's shooting has hurt relations between police and Hispanics. "These are professional people who should have the training to recognize the situation," Castro said. "Perhaps there is a need for more training."

The U.S. Marshals Service and Chapel Hill police had a stakeout Monday for a Hispanic fugitive wanted in a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. Between 8:15 p.m. and 9 p.m., Bariel Aguilar Martinez and his family arrived in a car matching the description of the suspect's at La Hacienda restaurant on Chapel Hill Boulevard.

U.S. Marshals Chief Deputy Dave Griffith said Aguilar got out of the car and a deputy marshal shot him in the leg above the knee. The U.S. Marshals and the State Bureau of Investigation are now conducting separate investigations of the incident, while the hunt for the real fugitive continues. "The deputy saw something he thought to be a threat to his life and fired one shot," Griffith said. "(Aguilar) didn't speak English very well; he didn't understand what the officer was saying."

The Marshals Service is withholding the name of the officer who shot Aguilar. Orange-Chatham District Attorney Carl Fox said the officer could face charges of assault with a deadly weapon if the SBI investigation finds evidence of excessive force.

Miguel Martinez, a waiter at La Hacienda and a photographer, was working in the restaurant that night. Martinez said Aguilar came to the restaurant to pay him for pictures he had taken of daughter Kenia Aguilar's 15th birthday celebration. Martinez said he was not angry with the officers involved but hoped they would do something to help Aguilar.

"I am not exactly angry, more like frustrated and disappointed," he said. "They need to ask for an apology and take care of him in case he cannot work."

Although Aguilar has not been able to return to his work in Durham, Griffith said the Marshals Service has not made official overtures to Aguilar because investigations are pending and litigation might be imminent.

"Because of the legal situation, we cannot reach out to the (Aguilar) family the way we would like to," Griffith said. "We'll be the first to say that this is a tragic event."

But Castro said the marshals have only made the situation worse by impounding Aguilar's car and not explaining themselves. "The Latino community is watching to see how this will unfold, how they will explain."

Castro said he thinks law enforcement officers in the area need a better understanding of the Hispanic community.

"The Triangle is experiencing a tremendous growth in the Latino community," he said.

"It's important for law enforcement and other agencies to learn how to deal with this increasing population, to work with them, to understand them.

But Griffith said any charges of profiling were unfounded.

"(Racial profiling) has nothing to do with this."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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