A Mexican Mom Whose Son Was Killed By A Border Patrol Agent Can Sue Him, A Judge Ruled
On Tuesday, one woman moved closer to seeking justice after her 16 year-old son was killed by a U.S. federal border protection agent. A judge decided a Mexican mom can sue the Border Patrol agent after he shot his gun over the U.S.-Mexican border, fatally striking the victim in the back with about 10 bullets, Politico reports.
"Based on the facts alleged in the complaint, [Lonnie] Swartz violated the Fourth Amendment. It is inconceivable that any reasonable officer could have thought that he or she could kill J.A. for no reason," wrote Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld in the court's majority opinion. "Thus, Swartz lacks qualified immunity."
Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez, was in Mexico when Swartz shot at him through the border fence, according to reports. Swartz has argued that the teenager was throwing rocks over the border, which is why, he says, he began firing, according to Politico.
The victim's mother, Araceli Rodriguez, who is suing for damages, disagrees. In her suit, she alleges that her son was "peacefully walking down the Calle Internacional, a street in Nogales, Mexico" when Swartz opened fire. On Tuesday, she was granted permission to move forward with her lawsuit.
"We have a compelling interest in regulating our own government agents' conduct on our own soil,'' Kleinfeld wrote.
This is not the first time that the facts of this case have been brought before a court. Back in April, Swartz was found not guilty of second-degree murder for the shooting, which occurred in 2012. That Swartz fired at and the teenager through the fence was never in question on either side, according to The Arizona Republic.
During the trial, Swartz testified about the event in vivid detail, but said that he had no actual memory of firing the bullets, the Republic reports. The memories, he said, were "distorted and grey."
Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, which represented Rodríguez, appeared pleased with Tuesday's ruling.
“The court made clear that the Constitution does not stop at the border and that agents should not have constitutional immunity to fatally shoot Mexican teenagers on the other side of the border fence," Gelernt said in a statement. "The ruling could not have come at a more important time, when this administration is seeking to further militarize the border."
Though the judges on the court which handed down Tuesday's ruling didn't offer an opinion about how the lawsuit might turn out, the ruling argued that, if nothing else, the case deserved to go forward.
"There is and can be no general rule against the use of deadly force by Border Patrol agents," Kleinfeld wrote in Tuesday's decision, Politico reports. "But in the procedural context of this case, we must take the facts as alleged in the complaint. Those allegations entitle J.A.’s mother to proceed with her case."
Of course, the outcome of the lawsuit is impossible to predict. It will take time for the suit to make its way through the proper legal channels, and for both sides to make their arguments. But in the interim, the mother behind the suit has been given an opportunity at a second chance to make her case before the U.S. legal system.