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Border agent charged with murder of Mexican teen

Border agent charged with murder of Mexican teen

By Nigel Duara for LA Times

For the first time in the history of the Border Patrol, one of its agents has been indicted for murder after shooting and killing a Mexican national through the border fence.

The border Arizona shares with Sonora, Mexico, is a hotspot for getting “rocked,” the Border Patrol shorthand for pieces of concrete thrown over the fence.

Border Patrol policy is to treat rock-throwing as a threat to agents’ lives, and they are permitted to respond with lethal force. On Oct. 10, 2010, agent Lonnie Swartz fired at least 10 rounds through the border fence, into Nogales, Sonora, and at least eight of them struck Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, who bled to death.

Though Swartz’s attorney called Rodriguez’s death “tragic,” it is not uncommon for agents to shoot through the border fence, and agents are almost guaranteed to avoid discipline in such cases.

But Wednesday night, a grand jury handed down an indictment of second-degree murder. The language of the two-paragraph legal document is simple, but stunning in its implications.

“Lonnie Ray Swartz, did with malice aforethought, and while armed with a P2000 semi-automatic pistol, kill [Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez],” wrote the presiding juror on the grand jury.

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