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Push to free Air Force veteran, City College student detained in Mexico

Push to free Air Force veteran, City College student detained in Mexico
Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 21:15:53-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) A campaign is now underway to free an Air Force veteran and City College student, recently jailed for crossing the border with a gun.

Air Force veteran Chris Chavez, 25, once deployed to Iraq, remains in a high-security prison Tijuana. He's been there since he and his friend Christian Cardozo tried to cross into Tijuana June 6 to get Chavez some antibiotics for an ear and throat infection.

Cardozo says at the border crossing, they were singled out for a search because they had tinted windows.

“Mexican police pulled us over, and let us know we were going to be under arrest,” said Cardozo.

They were arrested because Cardozo says Chavez had a gun registered in Texas, in the car. Chavez was discharged from the Air Force in early 2022 at five years, moved to San Diego, started taking classes at City College and just found an apartment in National City.

“He was still in the process of moving, and most of his personal belongings were still in his vehicle,” said Cardozo.

Cardozo says the 9mm Glock was in the glove compartment. It wasn't loaded, as the clip was in the trunk. Chavez had never been to Mexico.

“We were nervous. We were shocked, because we didn't know firearms were illegal in Mexico,” said Cardozo.

In the several days the two were in custody, Cardozo says Chavez wasn't treated for his condition, and suffered a fever and other symptoms.

“His throat swelled up. He couldn't speak. He could barely swallow water. I’m worried he isn’t getting the medical treatment he needs and could be worsening,” said Cardozo.

On June 10, Cardozo was released, while Chavez appeared in court and pleaded guilty.

“Public defender told us, ‘If you plead guilty, you’ll most likely be out free. It was an honest mistake, and they know you were in the service,’” said Cardozo.

With Chavez facing a three-year sentence, Cardozo is hoping for leniency. Since the court appearance, he says friends and family have not heard from the courts.

Cardozo has started a fundraising campaign to help hire a private attorney to help in the case.

The case bears similarities to the story of Marine reservist Andrew Tahmooressi, jailed while crossing the border with several guns in 2014. Amid pressure from US politicians, a Mexican judge freed him 7 months later, citing the Mexican prison’s ability to treat Tahmooressi’s PTSD.

Cardozo is hoping his friend is released far sooner.

“Christopher fought for our country. He shouldn't be punished for this honest mistake,” said Cardozo.

Cardozo says the US consulate in Tijuana won't be able to make a prison visit until late July. ABC 10News reached out the the consulate for a comment and are waiting to hear back.