Indictment Of Border Patrol Agent Could Set Precedent

Michel Marizco
By Kate Sheehy
September 25, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. — A United States Border Patrol agent has been charged by a federal grand jury with second degree murder in the cross-border shooting death of a Mexican teenager. The indictment could set a precedent for how similar cases are handled in the future. 

Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz shot 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez through the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Nogales, Arizona in 2012. Rodriguez was on the Mexico side.

In July, a federal judge ruled that Rodriguez’s family could sue the agent.

Lee Gelernt is the ACLU’s lead lawyer in the civil case against Swartz. 

"We’re hoping that this means in future cases with this type of egregious abuse, that there will be indictments,"  Gelernt said.

Gelernt said up until now, the practice has been not to charge agents in cross-border shootings. 

Shawn Moran is with the National Border Patrol Council. He said he’s concerned agents will hesitate to protect themselves during an assault. 

"The fear is that you will have a politically motivated prosecution for doing your job," Moran said.

The Border Patrol argues Swartz was defending himself against Rodriguez and others who were throwing rocks at agents.

Both Gelernt and Moran said this is the first time they’re aware of that an officer has been charged in a cross-border shooting, where the victim was on Mexican soil. 

Swartz's lawyer, Sean Chapman, declined to comment on the charge. Border Patrol deferred to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, which also declined a request for comment.