When 22-year-old Francisco Javier Domín- guez was shot to death last year by a US border patrol agent, his funeral made the papers all over Mexico, and so did the days-long ritual where his family and neighbors in that country recited the rosary.
Thousands of miles north, others grieved under the radar of the press. They were connected with Bear Naked, one of the biggest granola companies in the United States. It was launched six years ago in Darien, Connecticut, by 23-year-old Kelly Flatley and a friend from high school, Brendan Synnott, a talent manager at Saturday Night Live. The two pooled a few thousand dollars and an idea for remaking granola’s image: from aging hippie grub to sporty, youthful nibble. They were spectacularly successful. Late last year they sold their business to a Kellogg’s subsidiary in a reportedly lucrative deal.
Until he died Domínguez was employed at Bear Naked’s kitchen, in Stamford. His co-workers, who loved him, were also Latino immigrants. Company co-owner Flatley spent a lot of time in the kitchen, too. She knew Domínguez well and mourned alongside the workers.
Domínguez died while heading back to Bear Naked from a visit to his family. He was crossing the border on foot into Arizona in January 2007 when he was killed by agent Nicholas Corbett.
Corbett claimed he fired in self-defense after Domínguez brandished a rock. But three witnesses–Domínguez’s two brothers and the girlfriend of one of them–said the agent fired without provocation. In Tucson, Corbett was put on trial for various charges, including second-degree murder. Amid bitter national debate about immigration policy, the case was a political lightning rod. It still is. In early March the jury deadlocked after three days of deliberations, and a mistrial was declared.
The trial that just ended centered on questions about Domínguez’s death, such as whether he was kneeling when shot. Almost nothing was said about his life. Union Local 2544, the Tucson chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, referred to Domínguez on its website as “the deceased illegal alien” with “the gang tattoo.” Media reports often misstated what city and state in Mexico he was from.
Domínguez’s father, Renato Domínguez, is a brick mason. The family lived in a one-room wooden shack that started collapsing when Francisco Javier was a teenager. His mother, Maria Rivera, said he told her, “Don’t cry, Mom. I’m going to make you a house.” He left for the United States, by himself, to finance the construction. He was 17. He was hired by Bear Naked in about 2004.