Federal prosecutors won’t pursue charges against anyone over the death of American tourist Shanquella Robinson in Mexico last year, US officials announced Wednesday.
Robinson, a 25-year-old hair braider from North Carolina, was found dead in her hotel room while on vacation with friends in San José del Cabo on Oct. 29.
Robinson’s family was initially told by friends that she died from alcohol poisoning, according to attorneys, but her death certificate later listed the causes as severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation, a form of severe neck injury.
After a video emerged on the internet in November showing Robinson being beaten while in a hotel room, Mexican authorities had said they were investigating her death as an act of “direct aggression” from one of her traveling companions.
Last month, the Robinson family’s attorneys sent a letter to US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding that either federal prosecutors pursue charges in her death or that her alleged killer, or killers, be extradited to Mexico. The family named one of Robinson’s companions as the suspected perpetrator and said Mexican authorities had issued a warrant for that woman’s arrest.
FBI agents and Department of Justice prosecutors investigated Robinson’s death, but the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina said Wednesday that they could not prove that any federal crime had been committed.
“Based on the results of the autopsy and after a careful deliberation and review of the investigative materials by both U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, federal prosecutors informed Ms. Robinson’s family today that the available evidence does not support a federal prosecution,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Noting the “public concern” around the case, officials said they reached their determination after “experienced federal agents and seasoned prosecutors extensively reviewed the available evidence.”
The prosecutors met with Robinson’s family on Wednesday morning to inform them of their decision.
“As in any case, the government is prepared to review and examine new information related to the investigation should it become available,” officials said.
It was not immediately clear whether the prosecutors’ decision would affect any extradition efforts.
“We’re disappointed, but we’re not deterred,” Robinson family attorney Sue-Ann Robinson told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. According to the lawyer, the autopsy conducted in the US did not discover any spinal cord injuries, in contrast to the results of the Mexican autopsy.
She criticized what she described as a “delay” in the US investigation, which she suggested could have impacted the findings. She said that the Robinson family would continue to demand a “high level of diplomatic intervention” in the case.
“United States citizens cannot go to Mexico, commit a crime that we all saw on a video, and then come back to America and say, ‘We’re on base. We’re safe. We’re not going to be charged with a crime,’” the attorney said. “That cannot be the message that the US authorities want to send.
“There’s no reason why a Black woman should go on vacation with her friends, be returned to her family in a box, and nothing be done for five months,” she said. In a statement, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said that while the DOJ decision is "discouraging," they believe "justice is still possible for her death" via prosecutors in Mexico.