In an unprecedented move by federal courts, US Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz will face federal charges of second degree murder for the 2012 fatal shooting of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez from the US side of the border to Nogales on the Mexican side. International pressure from both sides of the border led to the charge after multiple human rights groups such as Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, Border Patrol Victims Network, and No More Deaths supported the family of Elena Rodriguez after the boy was shot 10 times on October 10, 2012. Thirty-three other fatal shootings of Mexican citizens by US Border Patrol have been documented in just the last five years.
A year and a half after the Elena Rodriguez shooting, the chief of internal affairs with U.S. Customs and Border Protection James F. Tomsheck was removed from his position after his criticism of Border Patrol. In an interview with The Center for Investigative Reporting following his removal, he said that a high number of the Border Patrol shootings were questionable regarding the agents’ use of lethal force. He described instances of Border Patrol lying in order to cover up facts, “In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand,” he told the CIR, “Border Patrol suffers from ‘institutional narcissism.'”
KGNU photo coverage from the location the day after the shooting showed at least an additional eight shots that were fired hitting an adjacent building and missing the boy. One account from the location shortly after the shooting described the incident, “[Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz] must have gone nuts with his gun.”
After the shooting, Swartz claimed that the boy was throwing rocks at him and in the direction of the border wall but witnesses said that the boy was simply walking to meet his brother after work at the same location they had everyday in order to walk home together.
Witness accounts as well as KGNU documentation put into question the Border Patrol version of the shooting because of the location of the shooting where the border wall was too high for a rock to clear.
KGNU will be report from Swarz’ first court appearance in Tucson next month.
all photos KGNU News: