TUSCON — A federal trial is set to begin Tuesday for a U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot a Mexican national through the border fence in Nogales, Arizona, more than five years ago.
The case, which illustrates growing tension along the U.S.-Mexico border, comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s rhetoric around illegal immigration focuses on undocumented immigrants involved in criminal activity. The Daily Universe is exploring immigration issues in a series of stories, and Universe staff reporters and a photographer were at the border site over the weekend where the 2012 shooting took place.
Lonnie Ray Swartz faces second degree murder charges for allegedly shooting at 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez more than 13 times.
According to reporting by the Arizona Republic, Border Patrol agents in Nogales were attempting to stop two individuals from climbing the border fence from the American side into the Mexican side on Oct. 10, 2012. Two others on the Mexican side began throwing rocks at Border Control agents.
In a video shown in earlier court proceedings, Rodriguez is not seen throwing rocks. Swartz is seen running toward the border fence and firing three times. After Rodriguez is down, Swartz shoots at the teenager 13 more times. Following his death, Rodriguez’s family sued the U.S. government and pushed for Swartz’s indictment for three years, and he was indicted in Oct. 2015.
Arizona Republic reporting says Swartz is the first Border Patrol agent to be held accountable in any way, including internal discipline, for killing someone after firing into Mexico. Swartz is only the third Border Patrol agent to be prosecuted for killing someone since 2005, and he is the first to be prosecuted by the U.S Department of Justice, with no convictions coming from any case.
The paper also reported that five other killings have occurred since 2010, with no other agents being charged, and Mexican families have so far been prohibited from suing the agents.