U.S. Marine Reserve Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi will be coming home after a judge ordered today that he be released from a Mexican prison.
Tahmooressi was arrested at the border the night of March 31 and was being held in the El Hongo II prison in Tecate, Mexico. He reportedly had a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45-caliber pistol and more than 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck when he was stopped at the San Ysidro crossing.
Tahmooressi says he crossed the border by accident due to confusing signs that caused him to miss the last exit in the U.S. His family demanded his return to the States to receive treatment for PTSD.
Many politicians lobbied the White House and State Department to pressure Mexico to release Tahmooressi, but in the end it was former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) who secured his release.
“Richardson has been in the San Diego/Tijuana area this week advocating for Andrew’s release and will escort Andrew and his mother back home,” the Richardson Center for Global Engagement said in a statement, adding that they would return to Florida on a private plane “late in the day.”
Richardson’s foundation “has worked closely on this case and has provided the chartered flight that will bring Andrew home.”
“I feel that the Baja California corrections officers and the Mexican government have been very helpful. I respect Mexico’s judicial process, and I am pleased that Andrew was released today and will return home to his family,” Richardson said in a statement.
Richardson will also ask Congress “to fund programs that allow veterans, especially those returning from combat, a period of time to decompress before returning to civilian life.”
The governor stressed that it was a bipartisan effort, and singled out House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) for “joining forces on this effort,” as well as “the thousands of Andrew’s supporters that have diligently advocated for his release namely via social media; and special thanks to Andrew’s mother, Jill, who has truly quarterbacked the efforts to bring her son home.”
Richardson also thanked Montel Williams, who testified before Congress alongside Tahmooressi’s mother, “for his fierce advocacy for Andrew and all veterans with PTSD.”
“The Center’s Senior Mexican Advisor, Juan Massey and Jonathan Franks of Lucid PR have worked diligently with Mexican officials over the past few months advocating for the safe return of Sgt. Tahmooressi; they will also be on the flight today with Andrew. Today’s charter flight has been provided by the generosity of Johnny and Marty Cope of New Mexico,” the governor’s foundation said.
Richardson “advocated early on with Mexican leaders for a humanitarian release based on Andrew’s PTSD, an argument that was successfully implemented by his legal defense team to persuade the judge to dismiss the case in a court of law.”
Royce called it “great, but overdue, news.”
“I am pleased that both Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam and the judge on the case recognize that Sgt. Tahmooressi did not intend to violate Mexican law, and that his combat-related PTSD should be treated by specialists in the United States,” the chairman continued.
“Andrew’s legal ordeal is over, and now he can focus on getting well and reaching his high potential.”
Salmon said he was “truly overjoyed” by the news.
“During my last visit with Andrew in a Mexican prison, I told him the next time I saw him would be during his release to America; I am grateful that I will be able to keep that promise and be with him and Mrs. Tahmooressi as he returns to the United States tonight,” he said.
The congressman thanked Mexico’s attorney general for “displaying compassion for Sergeant Tahmooressi’s medical condition.” He also thanked Richardson “for all his tireless efforts in aiding Andrew’s release.”
Jill Tahmooressi told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee last month that her son “received his crisis intake, positive screen for post-traumatic stress disorder” on March 12.
“At the time, he was ordered the cognitive therapy group therapy, the veteran group therapy,” Mrs. Tahmooressi testified. “He attended on March 20th. And, indeed, there is a third medical record in his Veterans Administration record from the morning, March 31st, that famous day when, at 10:30, he pulled out of a parking lot on the California side, San Ysidro.”
“Andrew is despondent and desperate to return to the United States. His PTSD treatment plan has been aborted. It was aborted on April 1st, as Mexico does not have the ability to provide combat-related PTSD expressive group therapy, as recognized here.”
The Marine told CNN that he attempted suicide by stabbing his neck with a broken light bulb when held at the La Mesa penitentiary in Tijuana. Tahmooressi said he was abused in prison, which Mexican authorities deny.
Tahmooressi told Fox’s Greta van Susteren in a May 30 interview that tried to flee the Tecate prison when he was able to scale a number of fences and run across rooftops, making it to the gate where he was shot at by a tower guard. He then surrendered.
UPDATE 12:30 a.m. EST:
— Foreign Affairs Cmte (@HouseForeign) November 1, 2014