Cultures

Are US Border Patrol Agents Executing Mexican Nationals?

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Nogales

Image: Wikipedia

Are US Border Patrol Agents Executing Mexican Nationals?

At the border between the US and Mexico, there has been an ongoing struggle between border patrol agents and drug smugglers. The border patrol exists to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country, and to stop cross-border criminal activity. However, during recent years, a number of shootings of Mexican citizens by the US Border Patrol is raising questions about whether, in the desire to control the border, these agents are too often resorting to deadly force.

Take the case of Jose Antonio. Jose was a 15 year old from the town of Nogales, Mexico. It sits on the border with the US and is divided from the town of Nogales, Arizona by a giant, rust-colored fence. On October 12, 2012, Border Patrol agents were called to this fence to respond to reports that drug smugglers were moving bales of Marijuana into the US. Border Patrol Agents arrived to find the suspects climbing over the fence into Mexico. They demanded that the suspects surrender when, according to their report, someone from the Mexican side of the border began throwing rocks at them. “Rocking” as it’s called, is a common tactic that smugglers use. They have associates in Mexico hurl rocks at border agents to distract them while they make their escape. In this instance though, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Ray Schwartz responded. He fired his gun through the slots of the fence, striking Jose ten times while he stood on Mexican territory at the corner of Calle Internacional in Nogales. Jose died on the scene.

According to Schwartz, Jose had been throwing rocks, which he argues have the potential for grievous bodily harm, thus permitting the use of deadly force in reply. According to James Tomsheck, a high placed official at the Border Patrol, the footage captured by the security cameras at the fence tells a different story. According to his account, the two agents on the scene were calmly watching the smugglers climb the fence when Schwartz arrived in another car. Suddenly, without speaking to the other agents, Schwartz walked to the fence and began firing through the slats. He fired all nine rounds in his side arm, and then reloaded and fired one more shot.

If this video, which hasn’t been released, shows what Tomsheck describes, then this is clearly a case of an innocent victim being murdered by a Border Patrol agent.

And it’s not the only case. There have been 67 incidents at the border where agents have used deadly force, resulting in 19 deaths. Schwartz is now facing trial, the first case ever of an agent being indicted. It is a promising sign, and hopefully will send the message that excessive force won’t be tolerated.

Wyatt is a writer and your friend. You can follow him on Twitter @WyattRedd.

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