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Immigration Law

10 Shots Across the Border

Mark Binelli, New York Times Magazine, Mar. 3, 2016 - "The subject who was hit was ... a 16-year-old resident of Nogales, Mexico, named José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was on the Mexican side of the border.  He had been shot 10 times from behind; an autopsy later revealed that gunshot wounds to the head, lungs and arteries killed him.  He was unarmed, carrying nothing but a cellphone.  He collapsed on a sidewalk on Calle Internacional, in front of a doctor’s office, below a sign reading ‘‘Emergencias Médicas.’’  Six months later, you could still see the bullet holes in the wall.  Someone had outlined them with a red marker. ...

... Border Patrol agents are generally immune from the kind of transparency required of most state and local law-enforcement departments.  A 2013 investigation by The Arizona Republic found that since 2005, C.B.P. agents had killed at least 42 people, a majority of them in the United States, but most of the agents’ identities had been kept secret, and the officers faced ‘‘few, if any, public repercussions, even in cases in which the justification for the shooting seems dubious.’’  Thirteen of the cases involved American citizens; at least three involved unarmed teenagers who were shot in the back. ...

... Rodríguez v. John Does was filed on July 29, 2014. ‘‘At the time of the shooting, the agents and/or officers were not under threat by [José Antonio] or anyone else standing near him,’’ the complaint read. ‘‘J.A.’s death was senseless and unjustified.’’  That November, José Antonio’s family members scored their first legal victory in the lawsuit when Raner Collins, a federal district judge in Arizona, ordered that the name of the Border Patrol agent be unsealed and released to the public. The agent’s name was Lonnie Ray Swartz. ...

... In September, it was announced that Swartz had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson for second-degree murder.  According to the indictment, Swartz ‘‘did with malice aforethought, and while armed with a P2000 semiautomatic pistol, unlawfully kill’’ José Antonio.  On Oct. 9, 2015 — the day before the third anniversary of the boy’s death — Swartz appeared in a Tucson courtroom for the first time, the first Border Patrol agent to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice for a cross-border shooting."

[Some of the court documents are here.]