U.S. Won’t File Charges in Death of American Woman in Mexico
Federal prosecutors said on Wednesday that they did not have enough evidence to bring charges in connection with the death of an American woman last year near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in a case that prompted outrage after a video online appeared to show her being beaten by another woman.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina said that its prosecutors and officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation had met recently with the family of the woman, Shanquella Robinson, 25, of Charlotte, N.C., to deliver the news.
Ms. Robinson had been vacationing last fall in Mexico with six friends when she was found unconscious in a living room at an address in San José del Cabo, according to Mexican authorities and statements from her father last year. A death certificate issued by Mexican officials listed the cause of death on Oct. 29 as “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation,” or the dislocation of a ring-shaped bone that supports the skull.
A widely circulated video that appeared to show Ms. Robinson being punched in the head and kicked by a woman during that trip prompted suspicions about her death and triggered an F.B.I. investigation. The authorities did not name the assailant in the video.
An autopsy and an investigation by American authorities found that “the available evidence does not support a federal prosecution,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. The F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not elaborate on their findings or answer questions emailed on Wednesday afternoon.
“It is important to reassure the public that experienced federal agents and seasoned prosecutors extensively reviewed the available evidence and have concluded that federal charges cannot be pursued,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
It was not immediately clear how the decision by federal prosecutors in the United States to not bring charges would affect the investigation by Mexican authorities into what happened.
The state attorney general’s office of Baja California Sur, in Mexico, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Wednesday.
The announcement by U.S. prosecutors drew condemnation from Ms. Robinson’s family and their lawyer, Sue Ann Robinson, who said in a news conference on Wednesday that while “we’re disappointed — we’re not deterred.”
Ms. Robinson, no relation to the woman who died, said that her team had been in communication with F.B.I. officials and learned from them that, while the Mexican autopsy had listed a spinal cord injury, U.S. officials had not found evidence of such an injury after performing their own autopsy.
F.B.I. officials also told the family’s lawyers that there was swelling detected on Ms. Robinson’s brain, but that the cause of death could still not be determined, according to Sue Ann Robinson.
She added that if Ms. Robinson’s death “had been taken serious from the very beginning” and an autopsy and investigation expedited by U.S. officials, there may not have been discrepancies between the autopsies of both countries.
“Because it was the death of a young, Black, beautiful, brilliant, educated woman who was on vacation,” she said, “justice was delayed.”
The video related to the case appears to show Ms. Robinson in a bedroom, being attacked by a woman as a man stands nearby and says, “Quella, can you at least fight back?”
Ms. Robinson’s father, Bernard Robinson, told The New York Times last year that it was his daughter in that video and said: “She’s not a fighter. She didn’t believe in drama. She wasn’t raised like that.” He did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
The state attorney general’s office in Baja California Sur said last year that it was seeking to extradite a female assailant who was “the likely responsible” person in the case, adding that an investigation had indicated that the death was the result of a “direct attack, not an accident.”
It’s unclear how the findings from the Mexican authorities were factored in to the F.B.I.’s investigation.
Sue Ann Robinson said she had learned from the F.B.I. that its agents interviewed Ms. Robinson’s travel friends and people who had stayed at a house in the Fundadores Beach Club area in San José del Cabo.
The Charlotte Observer reported last year that it had obtained a police report showing that a doctor had attended to Ms. Robinson after someone called for medical help at a vacation home at 2:13 p.m. on Oct. 29.
The doctor was told that Ms. Robinson had “drunk a lot of alcohol” and found her with stable vital signs, but dehydrated, unable to communicate and appearing to be inebriated, the police report stated, according to The Observer.
The report stated that the doctor wanted Ms. Robinson to be taken to a hospital but that her friends insisted she be treated at the home, according to The Observer.
After the doctor tried unsuccessfully to give Ms. Robinson an intravenous line, she began to have a seizure, prompting a friend to call for an ambulance, the police report stated, according to The Observer.
Ms. Robinson was declared dead at 5:57 p.m., the report stated.
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