Biden administration responds to calls for intervention in Shanquella Robinson death case
As the attorneys for Robinson's family call for action from the White House, the State Department and FBI share the status of the case with theGrio.
The Biden administration has responded to Shanquella Robinson family’s calls to intervene in the case of her death in Mexico nearly five months ago.
In a letter sent to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, attorneys representing the family requested “immediate diplomatic intervention” from the United States government, as no arrests have been made in the death of the 25-year-old U.S. citizen.
On Oct. 29, 2022, Shanquella Robinson, who was vacationing with six companions, was reported dead after suffering injuries at a luxury villa in Cabo.
Her family’s attorneys — famed civil rights lawyer Ben Crump and Sue-Ann Robinson — called on U.S. officials to release the U.S. suspects to Mexican authorities or request a concurrent jurisdiction to bring charges against them in American courts.
“Unfortunately, justice delayed is going to be justice denied in this case,” Sue-Ann Robinson told theGrio. “Every single day that passes, the evidence, the testimony, eyewitness recollection, those things dissipate day by day.”
The homicide case, which remains in the legal jurisdiction of Mexico, received international media attention after a viral cellphone video showed a female traveling companion and others violently attacking Shanquella Robinson.
In addition to the letter sent to the Biden administration, theGrio obtained copies of documents filed by the Baja California State Attorney General’s Office in Mexico investigating Shanquella Robinson’s homicide.
Sue-Ann Robinson, who is not related to the deceased young woman, told theGrio that she and Crump sent the documents and letter to the White House and State Department to “close the gap on the administration’s ability to say … we can’t intervene because we don’t know what the ask is.”
She continued, “Writing the letter and detailing specifically what the ask is and obviously the background of the case, closes that gap for the administration to make that claim and hopefully is a flag to let them know that they need to intervene in this case.”
According to the letter, the Mexican prosecutor’s office has issued a warrant for DaeJahnae Jackson, one of the travel mates who a witness identified as the woman who attacked Shanquella Robinson.
Prosecutors also obtained statements from a villa concierge who interacted with the group in the hours leading up to and after the young woman’s death. The concierge recalled that Jackson said her travel companion had died due to “having had too much alcohol.”
Attorneys said Jackson and two others — Wenter Donovan and Khalil Cooke — told Shanquella Robinson’s mother that she had died from alcohol poisoning when they came to her home in North Carolina to extend their condolences and return her luggage. However, the footage of the assault and a subsequent autopsy concluding that she died of a broken neck would prove otherwise.
The video evidence was a “game changer,” says the family’s attorney. “That changed the case for the Mexican authorities, from basic reporting on a death from something that was considered alcohol poisoning to an active criminal investigation,” said Sue-Ann Robinson, who personally traveled to Mexico on a fact-finding mission.
She added, “Unfortunately, by the time the video came out … the travel mates had already fled back to the United States the following day after Shanquella was declared deceased.”
Now, the family is pleading with the Biden administration to ensure that the individual or individuals involved in Shanquella Robinson’s death are held responsible for any crimes committed.
Crump told theGrio that before the video surfaced, the FBI said there wasn’t any evidence to substantiate that a crime had been committed. Similarly, activist Tamika Mallory, who led a rally with Crump and Shaquella Robinson’s family in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, noted in an interview with theGrio that the State Department released a statement concluding that there were no signs of foul play.
In a statement provided to theGrio, a State Department spokesperson said they are “closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation.”
The spokesperson added, “The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas and supports a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this incident.”
As for the U.S. government’s request to extradite suspects to Mexican authorities, the State Department said it does not comment on extradition matters. The department also referred theGrio to the FBI for information regarding an investigation.
In a statement provided to theGrio, a spokesperson for the FBI said its investigation into the death of Shanquella Robinson is “ongoing.”
“The FBI is working with the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation to determine if a U.S. federal crime was committed,” according to the statement.
The FBI and State Department declined to comment on whether they have received the letter from attorneys, but Sue-Ann Robinson confirmed to theGrio that the White House received it. She said the letter was a follow-up to the White House requesting more information about the case following the March 3 press conference in D.C.
The attorneys say they recognize their request for the U.S. to turn over American citizens to a foreign country is “unusual” as it relates to extradition cases. However, Sue-Ann Robinson noted, “there is protocol and precedent for it.”
She cited the case of the recent kidnappings of four U.S. citizens in Mexico, which led to two deaths, as a clear example of the level of cooperation that can occur between U.S. and Mexican authorities. “We’ve seen in the recent kidnapping case in Mexico, which is different substantively, but it does show that U.S. law enforcement can very swiftly coordinate with Mexican law enforcement to work on a transnational case,” Sue-Ann Robinson explained.
When asked about the case during Thursday’s White House briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre referred theGrio to the State Department and FBI. However, the Biden spokesperson said the White House is closely following the case and extended the administration’s condolences to Shanquella Robinson’s family. “Our hearts go out to Ms. Robinson’s family and friends. It is devastating what occurred.”
Similarly, in its statement about the young woman’s death, the FBI said, “We know this is a difficult time for her family and the community.”
Robinson, the family attorney, said the back and forth between U.S. and Mexico officials and misinformation about the case have been “very difficult” for the family, particularly Shanquella Robinson’s mother.
“They’ve been thrust into this while they’re also grieving their daughter,” she said. “Some days are better than others. But obviously, the longer that justice is delayed, it causes more and more frustration for the family.”
Gerren Keith Gaynor is the Managing Editor of Politics and White House Correspondent at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.
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