A U.S. Army soldier who was detained at a Mexican prison for more than a month after traveling with guns across the border was released from a Juárez prison Friday night after Mexican authorities dropped the weapons’ charges against him.
Spc. Richard Raymond Medina Torres, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran who spent about five weeks at the Cereso prison in Juárez, looked refreshed but overwhelmed as he left the custody of Mexican officials and returned to the United States.
“I have no bad feelings, but I just want to go home,” he said. “I have no bad feelings against Mexico or the people of Mexico.”
A statement from Cereso prison officials said Medina Torres was placed in the custody of the National Institute of Migration after a magistrate revoked the pri son’s authority to keep him. U.S. officials also investigated the case and found no indication of arms-trafficking.
“He was transferred this Friday to the National Institute of Migration after federal judicial authorities revoked the formal arrest order against him and ordered he be set free immediately,” Cereso spokes man Mauricio Rodriguez said.
Medina Torres was given a medical examination by Mexican authorities and was determined to be in excellent health before he was driven in a van to the middle of the Stanton Street bridge and released.
Clean-shaven and fresh looking, Medina Torres said he was happy to return to the United States after his prison stay.
Shortly after he was arrested April 21, the soldier said he had been driving from Fort Hood, Texas, to his mother’s home in Fresno, Calif., for a visit before he would be deployed to Honduras to a new assignment as a helicopter crew chief for a unit there.
He decided to stop in El Paso and walk over to Juárez for breakfast. He couldn’t find a place to park at the Bridge of the Americas, missed two turnarounds and arrived on the Mexican side with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, a .45-caliber handgun and ammunition, and several knives in his car.
He said the weapons were part of his personal collection.
He was arrested at a police checkpoint right off the bridge as he was trying to make a U-turn to return to El Paso, Medina Torres said.
Mexico prohibits carrying firearms across the border and several signs at international bridges warn crossers not to take such weapons into their country.
Medina Torres was gracious about his prison stay in Mexico and said he was ready to grab a bite to eat and then head to California.
When asked whether he would be dining in Juárez, he said no.
“People were more than happy to help me out, and I had no problems at all,” he said.
Shortly after Medina Torres was detained, a spokes person for his former unit at Fort Hood, Sgt. 1st Class Nick Conner, said that in such cases a soldier would go to his new assignment unless the position had been filled. If it has been filled, he would be given a new assignment based on his skills and the Army’s needs.
Fort Bliss spokeswoman Jean Offutt said Friday evening that the post’s military police had not been notified of Medina Torres’ release and would not be involved.
Because he is not charged with a crime in the United States, and because the charges in Mexico were dropped, there would be no need for him to be taken into custody by Fort Bliss officials, she said.
It would be standard procedure for him to contact his old unit at Fort Hood to determine his status with the Army.