Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz has been found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter after shooting Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez through the border fence because he was throwing rocks at border guards.
U.S. District Judge Raner Collins announced to the courtroom that Border Patrol Agent Swartz was right to fear for his life and consider the act of throwing rocks to be an enemy attack.
Agent Swartz shot 16 rounds through the border fence from Nogales, Arizona, into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Ten bullets hit sixteen-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez and he was killed instantly.
Swartz’s defense successfully argued that because Elena Rodriguez was throwing rocks at the border guards, Agent Swartz feared for his life and took the necessary steps to protect himself and his colleagues.
The manslaughter trial was the final step in a long legal battle for Agent Swartz to clear his name. Initially charged with second-degree murder, he was acquitted of that charge in April.
This recent trial for manslaughter required the border patrol agent to spend another month in court reliving every detail of the shooting, when he could have been usefully employed protecting the border, during the nation’s hour of need, as per his job description.
A report by the American Immigration Council found that over 95 percent of alleged misconduct complaints filed internally at CBP between January 2012 and October 2015 resulted in “no action taken.” In 2014, the CBP itself released a a critical report of misuse of deadly force specifically in the case of rock-throwers and moving vehicles. After initially refusing to make the report public, the agency eventually did, along with updating their handbook to state: “Excessive force is strictly prohibited.”
But when is use of force excessive? In Swartz’s case, the prosecutors asserted that was for this jury to decide. Through their not-guilty verdict, they have made clear that the killing of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was not an excessive use of force in their view.
Arturo Del Cueto, Vice President of the National Border Patrol union, agrees: “We’ve always held our agents accountable when they did something wrong,” he says,“In a case like this we’ve always backed up our agents when we believe they did the right thing.”
The Arizona jury verdict is further proof that real Americans support President Trump’s position on border security.
The vast majority of Americans agree with President Trump’s decision to sanction border patrol agents and military personnel to use lethal force to protect our borders from violent invaders.
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