Fourteen-year-old Hasked Brooks Wood had a bright future ahead of him. Though born and raised in poverty, he was a good, dedicated student who, according to his school report, rarely missed a day of class. In early May 2012, Hasked and his mother, Clara, gathered their belongings and boarded a small riverboat bound for the remote town of Ahuas in northeastern Honduras. After years living on the Honduran coast, they were moving back to his mother’s hometown.
But as their boat neared the port of Ahuas in the predawn hours, tragedy struck. Helicopters swooped in from the sky, and bullets rained down on the boat and its occupants. Hasked was shot dead in front of Clara’s eyes. Three other passengers also lost their lives that morning: a single mother whom a local doctor found to be 26 weeks pregnant, a mother of six children and a 21-year-old man who left behind a wife and a 1-year-old child.
Later that day, the Honduran police announced that in the course of a “successful” drug interdiction operation, four drug traffickers had been killed. But soon afterward, journalists and human rights activists revealed that the people on the passenger boat had no known links to drug trafficking and had legitimate reasons for traveling that night. They also reported that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents played a central role in the deadly operation and that for several hours Honduran and U.S. agents prevented the relatives of dead and injured victims from providing assistance to their loved ones.
When pressed by journalists, U.S. officials said a preliminary Honduran investigation showed that security forces “were justified in firing in self-defense,” though no evidence supporting this assertion was ever made public.