Christmas Miracle: Ex-Marine Jon Hammar Released From Mexican Prison
In what his mother called a "Christmas miracle," Jon Hammar, the ex-Marine and Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran whom Mexican authorities had detained and chained to a bed in a gang-infested prison on a trumped-up gun charge, was released on Friday after Mexican officials dropped the charges against him.
Hammar is safely back in Texas and will remain there for a few days before going home to Florida.
Hammar’s mother, Olivia, told the Miami Herald that "she and her husband were awoken by a 2:30 a.m. phone call Friday from her son’s Mexican defense attorney telling them the charges against the former Marine would be dropped. Hammar’s father, Jon, quickly found a flight to Texas."
“We made it from our house in Palmetto Bay to the airport in 11 minutes,” Olivia told the Herald. “This is our Christmas miracle.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who had diligently worked to get Hammar released, also enthusiastically announced Hammar "was safely back in the United States after leaving the prison in Matamoros, Mexico."
According to Ros-Lehtinen, Hammar's dad "was waiting for his son outside the prison along with U.S. officials from the State Department, the Customs and Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement." Hammar intends to stay in Texas for a few days to retrieve the Winnebago he and his friend used and a surfboard that has an engraving of the "name of a childhood friend who died in a motorcycle accident."
Mexican authorities arrested Hammar in August after he and a friend, who was also a Marine veteran, crossed over from Texas to Mexico en route to a surfing trip to Costa Rica. Even though U.S. officials at the border said Hammar was allowed to take his "six-decades old .410 Sears & Roebuck" shotgun, which is "suitable for shooting rabbits and birds," across the border and gave him the proper paperwork, Mexican officials questionably measured the gun's barrel and declared Hammar was in possession of, "a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces." The gun, according to Hammar's mother, was a family heirloom his grandfather passed down to him.
Soon after, "Hammar was sent to the Matamoros prison, where, at one point, inmates affiliated with local drug cartels called Hammar’s parents to try to extort money from them. U.S. officials intervened, and Hammar was separated from the general inmate population, but still spent much of his time chained to a bed to keep him from fleeing." Hammar faced more than ten years in a Mexican jail for his "offense."
After hearing the news, Ros-Lehtinen "lashed out at the Obama administration" for its silence and "persuaded scores of her congressional colleagues to sign letters to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security on Hammar’s behalf."
“We couldn’t believe it, but prayers and hard work really paid off,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It looks like we will have him home for Christmas.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) thanked New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for "personally reaching out to Governor Cesar Duarte of Chihuahua state in Mexico" and making him aware of Hammar's situation.
Florida Senator Ben Nelson (D) said "no American should be in a Mexican jail for five months without being able to have his case in front of a judge."
“We’re grateful," Nelson said. "This is a good Christmas present.”
Hammar, 27, "joined the Marines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honorable discharge in 2007 and later serving another four years on inactive reserve."