A federal judge has ordered a U.S. Border Patrol to pay a Mexican immigrant half a million dollars in a lawsuit.
The agent shot and wounded the undocumented man nearly five years ago intentionally with excessive force and was not justified in opening fire.
A gunshot wounded Jesus Castro-Romo of Nogales, Sonora in the stomach on Nov. 16, 2010, after he was caught crossing illegally from Mexico into the Arizona desert, reports the Associated Press.
After the shooting incident, former agent Abel Canales didn’t face criminal charges. Colorado prosecutors reviewed the case because of conflict of interest in Arizona.
AP also reported that in a ruling issued early February in the civil case, Judge James A. Soto awarded Castro-Romo nearly $500,000 in damages and said that the agent lacked credibility.
“Canales was given every opportunity to describe in detail the encounter with Castro with counsel present the day after the shooting occurred,” Soto wrote. “Then, after significant time had passed and in preparation for trial, details of his testimony changed and new details were added.”
In a civil trial last year, Canales had not changed his story but answered different questions on various occasions, according to the government in a court response.
“A witness’s version of events is not inconsistent or inaccurate simply because he provides additional information in response to different questions,” the response says.
The defense also states that the shooting was justified under Arizona Law because an agent is permitted to open fire in order to protect himself and others.
The shooting that occurred in ending 2010 took place near Walker Canyon. Canales, who was on a horse, spotted Castro-Romo and other migrants walking through the desert. The agent then ordered the group to stay on the ground while other agents arrived to help.
AP notes that Canales told investigators that Castro-Romo picked up a rock but then dropped it when ordered to do so. He also believed that the Mexican immigrant made a motion indicating he was going to pick up the rock again, but the agent did not actually see Castro-Romo with a rock in his hand, according to a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.
An explanation on why prosecutors were declining to charge Castro-Romo with assault on a federal officer is explained in the letter.
The Border Patrol has been accused of using excessive force, especially when agents encounter rock-throwing. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona on behalf of a similar case states that agents indiscriminately fire at suspected rock-throwers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.