Esequiel Hernandez Jr. was an American citizen, a teenager living with his family in Texas when he was killed by United States Marines in 1997. Amid President Trump’s cries for increased patrol of the Mexico-US border, those who still remember Esequiel are doubtful that a heightened armed military presence will solve anything.

Who was Esequiel Hernandez Jr.?

He had just turned 18, but Esequiel wasn’t yet sure what he wanted to do with his life. The day he was killed, he was on his family’s property herding goats. His bedroom wall had a Marine recruitment poster adorning it.

The teen carried a rifle to protect the herd from wild dogs and coyotes that were common around the area. Not long after he left the family home with his goats, Esequiel was dead. Camouflaged Marines were hiding in the brush nearby with their M-16s. Esequiel bled to death about 300 yards away from his house.

Conflicting accounts of his death called into question whether Esequiel had fired shots at the Marines first. His relatives and Texas Rangers who investigated don’t think that the teen ever saw the troops, who wore blackened faces and camouflage that mimicked the landscape’s natural foliage.

PBS later ran a documentary on the shooting, using publicized radio transcripts to quote the Marines.

“He’s armed with a rifle, appears to be herding uh … some goats or something,” one Marine said. Afterward, the men claimed, Esequiel had shot at them from across a ravine, and the next radio communication stated, “We’re taking fire.”

The next quote said simply, “Our Marines took him out.”

Later, an autopsy presented evidence that Esequiel was facing away from the hidden Marines when he fired his rifle.

But those who defended the moves of the military that day claimed that Esequiel looked directly at the men and raised his rifle to shoot.

A judge determined that Corporal Clemente Banuelos had fired on the teen in self-defense. However, the federal government later paid Esequiel’s family $1.9 million to settle their claim.

Trump’s position on border safety

A local activist told the media that “We’re all suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome that’s 20-years old,” over the circumstances surrounding the teenager’s death. According to his younger brother Margarito, his mother, passed away in 2017, still in shock and riddled with grief over her boy’s death.

Recently, Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas referenced Esequiel’s killing on Twitter. His comments against Trump indicated that “This is what happens when we militarize the border.”

A woman who said she went to school with the slain teen responded to questions about Trump’s border plans with concerns over the safety of the move. With between two to four thousand National Guard troops at the border, Trump hopes to cut down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

But at what cost? Residents of Presidio and the surrounding area wonder.

Other Americans have posed similar questions regarding the cash cost of Trump’s proposed wall. If human lives aren’t valuable enough, Trump wants billions of dollars for construction of a mostly concrete wall. After claiming he’d make Mexico pay for the wall, now he expects the U.S. military to fund it.

Critics speculate whether more walls will help anything, especially when these Marines who killed an American teenager, on his own property, were given a free pass.