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Marine veteran Jon Hammar, back home in Miami, recounts Mexican prison ordeal

Only days after U.S. Marine veteran Jon Hammar was thrown into a Mexican prison for carrying an antique shotgun into the country, gangsters in the jail warned him of his likely fate – beheading.

“They threw every threat in the book at me,” Hammar said Thursday in his first public remarks since his release Dec. 21 after more than four months in prison.

“They’d cut my head off, they told my family,” he said.

The gangsters demanded money to let Hammar, 27, remain alive, and the beheading threat was a scare tactic that harkened back to his tours of duty as a U.S. Marine in Iraq.

Mexican authorities arrested Hammar on Aug. 13 at the Texas-Mexico border when he crossed into Mexico in a motor home with a vintage shotgun that once belonged to his great-grandfather. Authorities slapped weapons charges on him. A traveling companion went free.

Hammar’s ordeal, first brought to light in a McClatchy story Dec. 6, sparked outrage in the United States, where fellow Marines demanded his release and members of Congress called for a boycott of Mexican tourism.

The outpouring has left Hammar feeling grateful.

“In America, we have people who care,” he said in a telephone interview from his family home in Palmetto Bay, south of Miami.