PHOENIX (Reuters) - Lawyers for the mother of a Mexican teenager fatally shot by U.S. border police filed a U.S. federal civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday, calling the killing “brazen and lawless” and the latest example of agents using excessive force.
The lawsuit says unnamed U.S. Border Patrol agents violated the constitutional rights of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was 16 years old when he died in the cross-border shooting from Arizona into Nogales, Mexico, in October 2012.
An autopsy by Mexican authorities found the teen was shot seven times from behind.
“I want to know who assassinated my son and why?” Araceli Rodriguez, the slain boy’s mother, said in a statement released by her attorney. “I want to know why they have not been brought to justice. Isn’t that why there are laws?”
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Tucson by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others seeks unspecified damages against an undetermined number of agents. It also seeks a jury trial.
A border patrol spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The border patrol has said agents were responding to reports of drug trafficking on Oct. 10, 2012, when they opened fire on a group that began throwing rocks at them from across the border on Mexican territory.
The incident was condemned by the Mexican government.
News reports showed Elena Rodriguez’s apparently lifeless body lying face down on a sidewalk just a few yards south of the steel border fence.
The lawsuit said he had been “peacefully walking down the street by himself” when he was killed.
“He was not committing a crime, nor was he throwing rocks, using a weapon, or in any way threatening U.S. Border Patrol agents or anyone else,” it said.
The complaint said the shooting was the latest in a string of “unjustified deadly shootings and physical abuses along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past several years.”
Attorney Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrants’ rights project and a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the case has broader legal implications, such as the whether the court will allow a lawsuit for a killing on Mexican soil.
Border Patrol agents have been criticized for allegedly being too quick to open fire after a number of agent-involved shootings on the frontier in recent years.
In March, the border patrol directed its agents to try to take cover, or to move away, when confronted by rock throwers, rather than immediately firing.
Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Cynthia Osterman