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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court's ruling that barred a lawsuit against a U.S. Border Patrol agent for fatally shooting a 15-year-old Mexican from across the border in Texas.
The justices, in an unsigned ruling, sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider whether the lawsuit brought by the parents of Sergio Hernandez can proceed against U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa.
The high court did not decide whether the U.S. Constitution's ban on unjustified deadly force applied to the slain teenager, a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil, when the shooting occurred in June 2010.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Feb. 21 when it still had a vacancy and was divided with four conservative justices and four liberals. President Donald Trump's conservative appointee Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April and did not participate in the case.
"The facts alleged in the complaint depict a disturbing incident resulting in a heartbreaking loss of life. Whether petitioners may recover damages for that loss in this suit depends on questions best answered by the court of appeals in the first instance," the court said.
The incident took place at a border crossing between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The Border Patrol said at the time Hernandez was pelting U.S. agents with rocks from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande before the shooting. U.S. authorities have asserted that Mesa shot Hernandez in self-defense.
Lawyers for Hernandez's family disputed that account, saying the teenager was playing a game with other teenagers in which they would run across a culvert from the Mexican side and touch the U.S. border fence before dashing back.
The Supreme Court on Monday also ordered two other cases that touch upon immigrant rights to be argued for a second time in the fall so that Gorsuch can participate, likely breaking a tie vote.
The first is on whether immigrants held in long-term detention during deportation proceedings can seek their release.. The second is on the scope of a federal law that requires immigrants to be deported when convicted of certain felony offenses.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham