A U.S. Marine combat veteran’s family is fighting to get him out of a Mexican jail, where he has been imprisoned since August for possessing an antique family firearm.
The shotgun, a Sears & Roebuck model, was passed on to 27-year-old Lance Cpl. Jon Hammar from his great-grandfather.
Hammar and a friend were on their way to Costa Rica from Florida to surf and vacation. They didn’t make it past Matamoros, Mexico.
Despite registering and declaring his intention to carry the family heirloom into Mexico with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Mexican customs officials arrested him immediately after he crossed the border.
Mexican law forbids civilians from carrying shotguns with a barrel of less than 25 inches. Hammar’s firearm was one inch short.
Hammar is charged with possession of a deadly weapon and could face up to 12 years in prison, according to the family’s lawyer.
“The possession of any weapon restricted for the use of the Army in Mexico is a Federal crime, regardless of whether you declare it or not upon entering the country, and must be automatically prosecuted,” Ricardo Alday, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy, said in a statement.
In prison, Hammar has spent the last four months regularly chained to a bed, receiving death threats and extortion demands from drug cartel thugs, according to his parents.
Located in a dangerous part of northern Mexico, the prison was the site of a fight among inmates that left 20 dead and 12 injured last year.
At the request of U.S. officials, Hammar was finally isolated from the general population of the prison after the parents received a series of threatening phone calls in the middle of the night from a cartel.
“He’s getting more and more hopeless,” said his mother, Olivia Hammar.
Hammar has suffered from PTSD since witnessing a sniper’s bullet kill a fellow Marine in Fallujah, Iraq. Hammer was honorably discharged in 2007 after serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, Hammar’s parents are pleading for their Florida representatives and the State Department to intervene.
“This is just an outrageous case,” Republican Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told Reuters.
Hammar’s next hearing is set for Jan. 17.