Judge Rules Border Patrol Agent Can Be Sued For Death Of Mexican Teen

By Kate Sheehy
July 10, 2015

TUCSON, Az. – On Thursday a federal judge in Tucson ruled that a U.S. Border Patrol agent can be sued for the shooting death of a Mexican teen. 

Judge Raner Collins ruled that Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez had civil rights protection under the 4th amendment. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz was in Nogales, Ariz., when he shot Rodriguez on the other side of the border fence in 2012. 

Lee Gelernt is a lawyer with the ACLU and argued the case for Rodriguez’s family. He said if the judge had ruled differently, it would have essentially set up a constitution free-zone.

“Where a border agent standing on U.S. soil could simply fire at Mexican citizens on the other side of the fence and there would be no constitutional retribution,” Gelernt said.

He said this ruling gives them the right under law to request further details about the shooting from the government.

In a similar Texas case, a federal appeals court ruled the family of another Mexican teen shot by a federal agent, could not sue. 

Shawn Moran is the Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council. He said the Arizona ruling will cause agents to hesitate taking action.

“That is a very dangerous situation, border patrol agents need to be able to defend themselves against assaults, even when they’re occurring from Mexico,” he said.

Moran said the council finds it hard to believe that someone outside of the U.S. who is assaulting a Border Patrol agent would be able to sue that agent.

Border Patrol has claimed that Rodriguez was part of a group throwing rocks at agents. Lonnie Swartz has 60 days to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.