Its been almost two years since 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was shot to death in Nogales, Mexico, by Border Patrol agents, and his mother is now filing a lawsuit to pursue justice for her son.
Araceli Rodriguezs attorneys filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in Tucson, Arizona, early Tuesday on her behalf for the senseless and unjustified killing of her son on Oct. 10, 2012 near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The lawsuit, Rodriguez v. John Does, claims that in killing Jose Antonio, Border Patrol agents acted intentionally and used unreasonable and excessive force with the purpose of causing harm to Jose Antonio without legal justification. The complaint states that the agents actions violated Jose Antonios Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
Rodriguez is also demanding a jury trial and is seeking damages, including punitive damages, against the agents involved in the killing of her son.
The U.S. border patrol agents who killed my son in a senseless act of violence are still out there and they need to be brought to justice, Rodriguez, who lives in Nogales, Mexico, said in a statement. The U.S. government has not held the agents who shot my son accountable and that is why I am bringing this lawsuit.
In a statement to VOXXI, a U.S. Custom and Border Protection official said the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
Jose Antonio shot 10 times by Border Patrol
The night that Rodriguezs son was killed, Border Patrol agents were chasing two Mexican drug smugglers on foot along the southern border fence in Nogales, Ariz.
According to Border Patrol, the agents saw two people abandon a load of narcotics on the U.S. side of the border before running back to Mexico. Border Patrol said the agents tried going after the two individuals and began firing when they ignored orders to stop throwing rocks.
The lawsuit claims that Jose Antonio was doing nothing but peacefully walking down the street by himself when he was gunned down by the agents. An autopsy report shows the teenager was fatally shot 10 times, with virtually all of the bullets entering his body from behind. Moments after the shooting, Jose Antonio was found dead on sidewalk, in a pool of blood, about four blocks from his home.
He was not committing a crime, nor was he throwing rocks, using a weapon, or in any way threatening U.S. Border Patrol agents or anyone else, the lawsuit claims.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that the Border Patrol agents did not issue any verbal warnings before opening fire, therefore, violating Border Patrol guidelines that require agents to issue a verbal warning, if feasible, before using deadly force.
Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants Rights Project who is representing Rodriguez in the lawsuit, said in a statement that Jose Antonios death is unfortunately not unique. He stated that on multiple occasions, Border Patrol has been known to use excessive and unnecessary force against people on both sides of the border.
Agents continue to violate the Constitution with impunity, Gelernt said.
According to the ACLU, at least 27 people have died since 2010 as a result of use of force by border agents.
CBP’s use of deadly force is questioned
Earlier this year, the Police Executive Research Forum conducted a review of U.S. Customs and Border Protections use-of-force practices. The review analyzed all CBP use-of-deadly-force cases from January 2010 through October 2012.
On cases involving rock throwers, the forum concluded that agents sometimes put themselves in harms way by remaining in close proximity to the rock throwers when moving out of range was a reasonable option.
Too many cases do not appear to meet the test of objective reasonableness with regard to the use of deadly force, the forum added. In cases where clear options to the use of deadly force exist and are not utilized in rock-throwing incidents, corrective actions should be taken.
In addition, the forum stated that the more questionable cases generally involved shootings that took place through the IBF [International Border Fence] at subjects who were throwing rocks at agents from Mexico.
Luis Parra, an attorney for Jose Antonios family based in Nogales, Ariz., said he hopes the lawsuit will serve to find justice for Jose Antonio and to identify the agents who shot the 16-year-old.
What happened to Jose Antonio should never be allowed to happen again, Parra said in a statement. We hope this suit will serve as a warning to agents that they will be held accountable for their actions in cross border shootings.