Posted by Athena Borderland Beat Forum.
MEXICO CITY — As a U.S. Marine, Jon Hammar endured nightmarish tension patrolling the war-ravaged streets of Iraq’s Fallujah. When he came home, the brutality of war still pinging around his brain, mental peace proved elusive. Surfing provided the only respite.
“The only time Hammar is not losing his mind is when he’s on the water,” said a fellow Marine veteran, Ian McDonough.
Hammar and McDonough devised a plan: They’d buy a used motor home, load on the surfboards and drive from the Miami area to Costa Rica to find “someplace to be left alone, someplace far off the grid,” McDonough said.
They made it to only the Mexican border. Hammar is in a Matamoros prison, where he spends much of his time chained to a bed and facing death threats from gangsters. He’s off the grid, for sure, in walking distance of the U.S. border. But it’s more of a black hole than a place to heal a troubled soul.
The reason might seem ludicrous. Hammar took a six-decade-old shotgun into Mexico. The .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun once belonged to his great-grandfather. The firearm had been handed down through the generations, and it had become almost a part of Hammar, suitable for shooting birds and rabbits.
But Mexican prosecutors who looked at the disassembled relic in the 1972 Winnebago motor home dismissed the U.S. registration papers Hammar had filled out. They charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.
Hammar isn’t the only American accused of questionable gun-related charges at Mexico’s border. Last April, a truck driver who was carrying ammunition through Texas got lost near the border, dipped into Mexico to make a U-turn and was forced to spend more than six months in jail.
t’s been months since Hammar’s Aug. 13 arrest, and his former Marine comrades are livid and dumbfounded, impotent to help.
CARTEL THREATS IN PRISON
In August, the family received a frightening middle of the night phone call from the cartel demanding money, said Jon Hammar, a 48-year-old software engineer.
"'Lady, this isn't about the police. This is our house. We have your son. We're going to kill him if you don't send us money,'" Hammar said, recounting the phone call.
The couple planned to wire the money to an account, but officials at the U.S. consulate intervened and contacted prison officials. His son was moved into a private cell the next day, he said.