One year after a Border Patrol agent fatally shot 20-year-old Claudia Patricia Gómez González in a small Texas border town, advocates have filed a claim against the federal government on behalf of the Guatemalan woman's family. The law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP as well as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a claim against Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for $100 million in damages as a precursor to filing a lawsuit.
"We are demanding justice for the senseless killing of Claudia Patricia Gómez González," Andre Segura, the ACLU of Texas' legal director, said in a statement released Thursday. "It's been more than a year and the U.S. Government still has not held the agency or the agent who shot and killed her responsible. It is crucial to hold our government accountable and we will pursue every avenue to make sure action is taken to obtain justice for Claudia and prevent further needless loss of life."
In their claim, lawyers for González's family claim she was walking with a few other people in a vacant lot in Rio Bravo, Texas, when a U.S. Border Patrol agent approached and drew his weapon. "When Claudia took a step, The Agent aimed at her, pulled the trigger, and shot her in the head," the legal claim reads. "Claudia fell to the ground, face down." The claim stressed that González was not wearing a backpack, carrying any visible objects, or in possession of anything that could be perceived to be a weapon at the time of her death.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection tells Bustle the agency is unable to comment on pending litigation.
However, in a statement released on the day of González's death, CBP claimed the Border Patrol agent "came under attack by multiple subjects using blunt objects" when he attempted to apprehend the group González was with. "The agent fired at least one round from his service issued firearm, fatally wounding one of the assailants," a CBP press statement read. "The rest of the group fled the scene."
But when a Rio Bravo resident came forward to reveal she'd begun recording on her cellphone just after the agent fired his gun — and had handed that footage over to the FBI, CBP released a new statement, contradicting their initial account. "According to the agent, the group ignored his verbal commands and instead rushed him," BuzzFeed News reported the agency's statement read.
According to the ACLU of Texas, González's parents have alleged the U.S. government is liable for their daughter's wrongful death under the Federal Tort Claims Act and have subsequently filed an administrative claim for damages. If the claim is not resolved within six months, González's parents will sue in a federal court, the ACLU of Texas said in its press release.
"We will forever have an emptiness in our hearts because an agent of the U.S. government took Claudia's life in such a horrific and unnecessary way," Gilberto Gomez Vicente, González's father, said in a statement released by the ACLU of Texas. "Claudia was a kind, loving, and peaceful girl with big dreams, who would never do anything to harm anyone. My promise to Claudia is to fight for justice so that her life is not forgotten and her death is not in vain."