Mother of slain Mexican teen sues US Border Patrol over shooting

The mother says that US border agents shot her son 10 times in the back and have not been held accountable. US officials say that the teen was throwing rocks and that the agents acted in self-defense.

Alonso Castillo/Reuters
A woman walks past the border fence between Mexico and the US and near the site where 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez was shot by US border patrol agents in October 2012. The teen's mother filed a federal lawsuit against US Customs and Border Protection Tuesday.

The mother of a slain Mexican teen who was fatally shot by border patrol agents in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Tuesday.

Sixteen-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez was standing in Nogales, Mexico, on Oct. 10, 2012, when border patrol agents shot him from across the border in Nogales, Ariz. The boy's mother, Araceli Rodriguez, says that he was shot 10 times in the back while walking home from playing basketball with friends.

“The US 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,” Ms. Rodriguez said in a statement Tuesday. “The US government has not held the agents who shot my son accountable and that is why I am bringing this lawsuit.”

CBP maintains that José Antonio was throwing rocks and that the agents, who have not been publicly named, were acting in self-defense. Border patrol agents are permitted to fire on rock-throwers if they feel their lives are in danger. Border agents have come under attack by rock-throwers more than 1,700 times since 2010.

However, Rodriguez insists that her son did not have rocks or any other type of weapon when agents shot him from behind.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on Rodriguez’s behalf, alleges that the incident is evidence of a culture of excessive force among border patrol agents.

“Jose Antonio’s killing by US border patrol agents is unfortunately not a unique event but part of a larger problem of abuse by border patrol agents in Nogales and elsewhere,” the lawsuit states, according to the Associated Press.

US border patrol agents have fired across the border at least 12 times in the past five years, killing six Mexicans standing on Mexican soil, according to a 2013 joint investigation by Washington Monthly and The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, a nonprofit media center.

These incidents have exposed a legal gray area and prompted questions about whether US courts can enforce the rights of individuals standing on foreign soil.

US District Judge David Briones ruled in 2011 that the family of another slain Mexican teen could not sue CBP or border patrol agent Jesus Mesa for fatally shooting Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca through a border fence, because the shooting’s effects were “felt in Mexico.”

However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned that ruling on June 30. That ruling opened the door for the Hernandez family to sue Mr. Mesa but upheld Judge Briones’s decision that the agency could not be sued. Both of those points will probably be appealed.

* This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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