Sixty Organizations Call on Congress to Investigate Border Patrol’s Use of Lethal Force Against Rock Throwers
June 23, 2011
SAN DIEGO – After the latest in a series of disturbing instances of the U.S. Border Patrol using lethal force against rock-throwers, more than sixty organizations signed a letter to two congressional committees calling for an immediate investigation and an end to this practice.
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Amnesty International, American Friends Service Committee, and organizations along the entire U.S.-Mexico border are requesting that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano make it clear to her Border Patrol agents that it is not acceptable to use deadly force when confronted with rock throwers.
“Deadly force should always be an action of last resort, and only used if an imminent risk of death is present and no other tools exist to ameliorate a dangerous situation,” reads the letter. “To shoot stone throwers is exceptionally disproportionate and inhumane.”
On June 21, 2011, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man who was allegedly trying to illegally enter the United States from Mexico. The facts are still being sorted out, but initial reports indicate that the Border Patrol agent fired at the man as he was throwing rocks at the agent.
This is not the first time that an incident of this kind resulted in the death of another human being. This latest use of lethal force caps a chronology of events and deaths stemming from disproportionate use of force by U.S. Border Patrol agents between January and June of last year:
• In January, a 17-year-old who was also said to be throwing rocks was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent near Nogales, Ariz.
• In March, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen who was allegedly running from agents was shot and killed near Douglas, Arizona, after a rock-throwing incident.
• The last death in San Diego, CA, involving federal agents was in May of last year when Mexican citizen and long-time Encanto resident Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, 42, was arrested in the U.S. after being deported. U.S. officials said he got into a fight with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers during which he was shot with a stun gun and died days later, though video evidence has since surfaced clearly refuting that claim.
• On August 11, 2008, another instance of this disproportionate use of force took place at the U.S.- Mexico border near San Diego. Edgar Israel Ortega Chavez, whom Border Patrol alleges was throwing rocks, was in Mexican territory when he was shot by a Border Patrol agent.
• In 2010, an agent shot and killed a 15-year-old boy who authorities said was throwing rocks at him near the border in El Paso.
These cases, taken in totality, demonstrate why it is necessary to bring transparency and accountability to federal law enforcement agencies. Training, oversight and accountability measures for border enforcement agents have not kept base with the rapid escalation of numbers of agents deployed at our border.
“Congress needs to investigate and put an end to this recurring disproportionate use of force,” said Cynthia Buiza, policy director of the San Diego ACLU. “The public needs to be aware of and evaluate our law enforcement’s policies and practices, because they are acting in our name. While there are rare instances when lethal force may be necessary, the pattern and regularity of its use makes it feel like official policy and that raises serious constitutional and legal questions.”