After 5 months of being held for bringing what Mexican authorities called a ‘forbidden weapon’ across the border, Jon Hammar has finally been reunited with his family.
A former U.S. Marine, was released from a prison in Mexico Friday CNN reports. Jon Hammar, a veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was arrested in August in the border town of Matamoros, just across from Brownsville, Texas, when he stopped for gas while on his way to Costa Rica for a surfing vacation with a friend and fellow vet.
Along with his surfboards, Hammar took an antique shotgun handed down from his great-grandfather. His parents said that Hammar intended to hunt with it, and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection told him he could bring the gun into Mexico if it was registered and a fee was paid.
But after he drove his Winnebago to the Mexican side, authorities arrested him, saying the weapon did not comply with their gun laws.
Olivia Hammar said her son was charged with possession of a weapon restricted for military use. A branch of the Mexican military said the gun is not on its ‘forbidden list,’ she said, but her son remained incarcerated.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who represents Hammar’s family’s South Florida district said in a statement,
These past few months have been an absolute nightmare for Jon and his family, and I am so relieved that this whole ordeal will soon be over … I am overcome with joy knowing that Jon will be spending Christmas with his parents, family and friends.
For the first few months of his incarceration Hammar’s family kept the predicament out of the public eye. They received several threatening phone calls from the prison their son was being held in, demands of money in exchange for Hammar’s safety. Olivia Hammar, Jon’s mother told CNN,
He said: ‘I have your son, I am going to f— him up. I already have.’
Then she heard her son’s voice.
He said: ‘Mom, you’ve got to do what they say; they’re really serious.’
The voice at the other end of the line asked for $1,800.
After several of these phone calls, Hammar’s family decided to come forward and request help. They hoped that by speaking out they would be able to get the Mexican authorities to take action to free their son.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, stepped in on Hammar’s behalf, speaking to Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. They managed to get him out of the general prison population so he would be away from dangerous inmates.
Hammar was moved to what Nelson said was like an administrative location. But because of the low security at the new facility, which Olivia Hammar described as a storage shed, officials periodically chained Hammar to his bed.
Shortly after Hammar was moved to the low security administrative location his family contacted Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who is the head of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Ros-Lehtinen, who called the situation ‘outrageous’, then contacted the State Department, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and the Mexican ambassador.
Patrick Ventrell a U.S. State Department spokesman said Friday,
U.S. consular officials met Hammar at the prison and escorted him to the border, where he was reunited with members of his family.
The Hammar family, which has said they won’t give any interviews until after the holidays, is now reunited and can celebrate the holidays with full and happy hearts.
Picture: Daquella manera/Flickr