Cross-border shooting: US Border Patrol agent charged in murder of Mexican teen

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Former Border Patrol agent testifies at start of Fast and Furious trial.

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – Federal authorities have charged a U.S. — A former Border Patrol agent broke down in tears as he described desperately trying to save the life of a colleague who was shot during a firefight that exposed the bungled federal gun operation known as Fast and Furious.

Luis Parra, the attorney for the mother of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, told The Associated Press that a federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted agent Lonnie Swartz. “The Elena Rodríguez Family is grateful to the DOJ (Department of Justice) for this first step in the pursuit of justice, and remain steadfast in their resolve to seek full transparency from the U.S. It is the first criminal trial in Terry’s killing, which brought to light the government’s operation that allowed criminals to buy weapons with the intention of tracking them. Instead, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of 1,400 of the 2,000 guns involved in the sting operation, including two weapons found at the scene of Terry’s killing. Castano became emotional in federal court in Tucson as he walked the jury through the night of Dec. 14, 2010, when he, Terry and two other agents were on a mission to arrest gangs known as rip crews that target marijuana smugglers. While the case will provide the first trial for suspects in Terry’s death, the judge has excluded any information about the failed operation during the case.

Swartz is also facing a federal civil rights lawsuit in the death of 16-year-old Elena Rodriguez, who was in Nogales, Sonora, on Oct. 10, 2012, when Swartz shot him from Nogales, Arizona. The operation became a major distraction for the Obama administration as Republicans in Congress conducted a series of inquiries into how the Justice Department allowed such an operation to happen. Rosario Rafael Burboa-Alvarez, accused of assembling the armed crew that was supposed to steal marijuana from smugglers when they encountered Terry and other agents, struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors last month that will likely result in a 30-year prison sentence, with credit for time served.

Defense attorney Ramiro Flores was quick to point out that the agents deployed their beanbag shotguns first and three of the men ran away. “Someone triggered that firefight, and it wasn’t these individuals here,” Flores said of the defendants. Sanchez-Meza and Soto-Barraza face charges of first-degree and second-degree murder, assault on a federal officer, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

In a similar case in Texas, a federal appeals court ruled that a teen killed in Mexico by a border agent in El Paso was not protected by the Constitution. The agency has come under heavy criticism over allegations that agents too often use deadly force against immigrants, often in response to those who throw rocks.

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