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Arizona march puts spotlight on shootings by border patrol

The march in Douglas, Ariz., aims to draw attention to a teen who was shot by a border patrol agent while trying to climb the international fence. The agent was being pelted by rocks.

By Lourdes MedranoStaff writer / April 1, 2011



Tucson, Ariz.

A march in the Arizona border town of Douglas Friday seeks to highlight what activists call the increasing use excessive and sometimes lethal force against illegal immigrants and even Hispanic citizens in rock-throwing incidents.

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The march is to place candles and flowers at the stretch of the border fence where Carlos Lamadrid was shot and killed March 21. Mr. Lamadrid was fleeing toward the international boundary in a pickup truck carrying 48 pounds of marijuana when, as he attempted to climb a ladder placed against the fence, a border patrol agent opened fire, according to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department.

The agent, whose name is being withheld, reported that he fired shots after being pelted with rocks. A man “was on top of the border fence and was observed throwing rocks at the border patrol agent,” a sheriff’s department statement notes, but spokeswoman Carol Capas says it was not Lamadrid.

Lamadrid is the third teen in a year to die in incidents that reportedly involved border patrol agents and rock-throwing. In June, a 15-year-old Mexican boy was shot by an agent after a group tried to illegally enter El Paso, Texas, and in January, a 17-year-old died after falling off the border wall in Nogales, Ariz., reportedly after being shot by border patrol agents.

The National Border Patrol Council says agents have a right to defend themselves. “When rocks are thrown at us, that is considered deadly force,” union spokesman Shawn Moran says and adds that such assaults have severely injured border patrol agents.

But rock-throwing is a pretext that poorly trained agents use to justify inadequate responses to varying levels of threats in border communities, critics say.

If Lamadrid was believed to be involved in illegal activity, he should have had his day in court, says Jennifer Allen, the leader of a Tucson human-rights group, Border Action Network. “Agents are not supposed to be judge, jury and executioner,” she adds.

Officials with the border patrol and the FBI, which is conducting a joint investigation with the sheriff’s department, won’t discuss the case. A 17-year-old who also was riding in the truck was arrested at the scene, Ms. Capas says. He faces several drug-related charges.

“The community is very upset over the shooting,” says Angelita Nuñez, a local activist.

Lamadrid’s family is holding the march and speaking out about the incident because they don’t want anyone else to die as his nephew did, says Javier Teran, one of Lamadrid’s uncles.

“The family still can’t assimilate what happened that day,” he adds.

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