GRAVESEND —Two members of New York City’s congressional delegation fired off a letter to the acting director of Immigration and Customs and Enforcement demanding answers in the wake of the shooting of a Gravesend man by ICE agents serving a deportation notice on another man, whom they had identified as an undocumented immigrant, on Feb. 6.
In their letter to Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence, U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez expressed concern over the shooting of Erick Diaz by ICE agents on West 12th Street in Gravesend. Diaz was shot in the face as he tried to help Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, his mother’s boyfriend, as ICE agents attempted to serve a deportation notice to Avendano-Hernandez and take him into custody.
Diaz allegedly got into a scuffle with ICE agents as the agents attempted to take Avendano-Hernandez into custody. Diaz was taken to Maimonides Medical Center following the shooting.
Avendano-Hernandez, who hails from Mexico, is in the U.S. illegally, according to ICE officials. He has a criminal record and was convicted of assault in 2011, ICE officials said. He is now in ICE custody.
Nadler and Velazquez said they are deeply troubled by the shooting of Diaz.
“The details surrounding the incident are currently being investigated. However, we are very concerned by the initial use of force by the ICE agent in the first place, especially as initial reporting suggests both Mr. Avendano-Hernandez and Mr. Diaz were unarmed,” Nadler and Velazquez wrote.
Nadler, a Democrat, represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Velazquez, who is also a Democrat, represents parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
The two lawmakers said their concern over the shooting was heightened when they heard reports that the ICE agents did not properly identify themselves during the altercation.
“This unfortunate incident further erodes trust in the agency’s mission and its responsibilities. Moreover, the nature of the incident is serious enough to warrant a review of practices and protocol employed by ICE agents in the field,” Nadler and Velazquez wrote.
Rachel Yong Yow, public affairs officer for ICE’s New York office, told the Home Reporter on Feb. 7 that the agency would not comment on the letter from Nadler and Velazquez.
But Yow did send the Home Reporter a statement from ICE on the Gravesend shooting incident.
“A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Team discharged at least one firearm in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday morning when officers were physically attacked while attempting to arrest Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, a twice-removed illegal alien from Mexico with a 2011 assault conviction in New York City,” the statement read.
The description of Avendano-Hernandez as a “twice-removed illegal alien” refers to the fact that he had been removed from the U..S. by ICE and taken back to Mexico twice in the past.
“The New York Police Department arrested Avendano-Hernandez Feb. 3 for possession of a forged instrument, a felony criminal charge. ICE attempted to lodge an immigration detainer after his most recent arrest, however the subject was released from local custody before ICE could lodge a detainer. This forced ICE officers to locate him on the streets of New York rather than in the safe confines of a jail. This incident is being investigated by the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility. Additional details are not available at this time,” the statement read.
A federal law, the Immigration and Nationality Act, gives ICE officers the authority to arrest undocumented immigrants without a judicial warrant, ICE officials said.