TUCSON, Arizona – The case of an undocumented Mexican who received compensation for being shot in the back by a Border Patrol agent is a “victory,” according to activists.
“This is a great victory, because the use of lethal force by the Border Patrol has been a big problem for some time,” James Duff Lyall, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, told Efe.
He said that when a Border Patrol agent is suspected of abuse of power, he is almost never penalized as in this case.
On Feb. 5 a federal judge awarded $500,000 in compensation to Jesus Castro Romo, who was shot in the back in November 2010 after being arrested trying to cross the border into the U.S. illegally together with other immigrants.
Border Patrol agent Abel Canales said he fired in self-defense after Castro threatened him with a rock.
U.S. District Judge James Soto ruled that Castro was in no position to throw a rock at the federal agent at the time he was hit by a bullet.
The judge went a step further and said that “a rock is not as deadly an object as a gun and requires greater degree of certainty that the object will be used than the threat or perceived threat of a gun.”
“It is often extremely difficult for an immigrant to file suit against Border Patrol agents,” William Risner, the attorney who represented Castro in the civil lawsuit, told Efe.
On many occasions the Border Patrol has made the excuse of being threatened with a rock to justify the use of lethal force.
“This is just one case – we know there is still a long road ahead and a long history of abuse and lack of responsibility on the part of this federal agency,” Risner said.
The attorney said that Castro’s health has had a number of complications due to the bullet wound and that the $500,000 compensation must be used to cover the costs of a needed operation.
Risner has another three cases pending of border agents who shot and killed someone.
One case is that of 19-year-old Carlos Lamadrid, a U.S. citizen who died after being shot several times in March 2011 in the border town of Douglas, Arizona.
He was fleeing police and was trying to climb over the border fence to the Mexican side when he was shot in the back at least four times.
The U.S. Justice Department ruled in 2013 that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the border agent, identified as Lucas Tidwell.