Mother of Slain Mexican Teen Sues U.S. Border Patrol Agents

 

TUCSON – Araceli Rodriguez, the mother of slain Mexican teen Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, filed a federal lawsuit today in Arizona to pursue justice for her son, who was killed nearly two years ago by U.S. Border Patrol agents, identified only as John Does in the lawsuit. She is demanding a jury hear evidence about the unlawful actions of these unknown agents.

“The U.S. border patrol agents who killed my son in a senseless act of violence are still out there and they need to be brought to justice,” said Araceli Rodriguez, who lives in Nogales, Mexico. “The U.S. government has not held the agents who shot my son accountable and that is why I am bringing this lawsuit.”

On the night of Oct. 10, 2012, after playing basketball with friends in his neighborhood of Nogales, Mexico, 16-year-old Jose Antonio was walking home alone when he was shot approximately 10 times through the border fence by unknown Border Patrol agents. Virtually all of the bullets that struck Jose Antonio entered his body from behind. He died on the sidewalk, in a pool of blood, about four blocks from home.

When he was shot, Jose Antonio was walking along Calle Internacional, a main road that runs parallel to the border fence. He was walking on the far side of the street, about 25 feet away from the sheer cliff on which the border fence is built. At the location where Jose Antonio was shot, the top of the fence towers approximately 40-50 feet above the street level. At the time he was shot, Jose Antonio posed no threat to U.S. Border Patrol agents or anyone else.

“Jose Antonio’s death is unfortunately not unique,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Border Patrol is using excessive and unnecessary force against people on both sides of the border. Agents continue to violate the Constitution with impunity.”

At least 27 people have died since 2010 as a result of use of force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, yet the agency continues to lack a reasonable, transparent process for reviewing agent-caused deaths and holding agents accountable for misusing their authority or breaking the law. Jose Antonio’s family’s formal complaint to CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was summarily quashed and the agency has so far refused to release the names of the agents involved, a customary practice.

“This lawsuit seems to be the only way to find justice for Jose Antonio and his family,” said Luis Parra, an attorney based in Nogales, Ariz. “What happened to Jose Antonio should never be allowed to happen again. We hope this suit will serve as a warning to agents that they will be held accountable for their actions in cross border shootings.”

For her son’s unjustified killing, Araceli Rodriguez is seeking damages, including punitive damages. In addition to Gelernt and Parra, she is represented by Roberto C. Montiel of the Roberto Montiel Law Offices in Nogales, Ariz.; Dan Pochoda and James Lyall of the ACLU of Arizona; Andre Segura, Dror Ladin, and Cecillia Wang of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Mitra Ebadolahi of the ACLU of San Diego and Border Litigation Project; and Arturo Gonzalez and Hector Suarez Morrison and Foerster LLP.

Click here for a copy of the complaint filed by today in Rodriguez v. John Does.

Read an account by our Border Litigation Project attorney, Mitra Ebadolahi.

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Grandmother holding portrait of slain boy.

Taide Elena, grandmother of Jose Antonio, at a protest in Nogales. Photo by Josh Morgan, Tucson Weekly.