Marine veteran Jon Hammar is back home and will be celebrating Christmas with his family in Palmetto Bay, days after his release from jail in Mexico. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spoke about the case.
The South Florida Marine veteran who spent months in a Mexican prison for bringing a shotgun into the country is speaking out for the first time since his release and says gangsters in the jail told him he'd be beheaded.
"They threw every threat in the book at me," Jon Hammar told McClatchy News Service, in an article printed in the Miami Herald. "They’d cut my head off, they told my family."
Hammar, speaking from his parents' house in Palmetto Bay for the first time since his Dec. 21 release from a detention center in Matamoros, Mexico, said the gangsters demanded money to keep him alive and said the prisoners are "full blown" mobsters.
"I knew not to go around picking fights with anybody," he said.
Hammar, 27, served in Iraq and Afghanistan before being honorably discharged from the Marines in 2007. In August, he and a friend set out on a road trip headed for Costa Rica in a Winnebago filled with surf boards, camping gear, and an unloaded shotgun.
When Hammar asked U.S. border agents what to do with the shotgun, he says they didn't warn him about taking it into the country.
But when the pair crossed the border and handed the paperwork for the gun to Mexican officials, they impounded the RV and jailed the men, saying it was illegal to carry that type of gun. Hammar's friend was later released because the gun did not belong to him.
Hammar said his parents received threatening calls from the gangster inmates and that after they complained to the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros, Hammar was moved out of general population with the other prisoners. He says he spent the rest of his time in a loosely guarded cage with his ankle handcuffed to a bed frame.
Hammar's family, Congressional members and fellow Marines demanded his release for months before Mexican officials finally freed him just before Christmas.
"In America, we have people who care," Hammar said. "I’m really grateful. But at the same time I kind of expected that from Marines. Marines don’t just throw each other under the bus. They look after each other."
After his release, Hammar developed a fever and was hospitalized. He's still recovering from a stomach virus and dehydration.