The Washington Post

Fatal shooting of Mexican man by U.S. border agent comes amid anger over similar events

This aerial photo shows the scene of a shooting by a U.S. Border Patrol agent near San Diego on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (John Gibbins/AP)

Mexico’s diplomatic reaction Thursday to the latest U.S. Border Patrol killing of a rock-throwing Mexican migrant — that the government is “profoundly concerned” — might be putting it rather mildly.

“That outrages me. Yes, it offends me,” Mexico’s attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, said of a similar case in an interview Monday evening. That was a day before the latest incident, in which an unidentified Border Patrol agent shot and killed Jesús Flores Cruz, a 41-year-old Mexican man crossing the border near San Diego, who had allegedly hit the agent in the face with a rock.

Murillo had been talking about the case of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, who was killed in October 2012. The teen was shot by a Border Patrol agent at least 10 times, including several times in the back, in Nogales, Mexico, after rocks were thrown across the border. Shooting “a boy that is throwing a rock to the other side of the river? Please. That is an abuse of force here and anywhere,” Murillo said.

“Is that allowed, this use of force? If that were reversed, they would make such a scandal for us you couldn’t imagine,” he said. “A Mexican policeman shooting someone for any reason on the other side of the bridge?”

“I am telling you in all honesty, it offends me,” he added. “Because I don’t see justice in these cases.”

Customs and Border Patrol agents have fatally shot at least 20 people since 2010. Nine of those deaths involved cases in which rocks were allegedly thrown at the agents. This has led to new scrutiny from Congress and human rights groups about the Border Patrol’s use-of-force policies and whether shooting at rock throwers is justified. Last fall, Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher said his agency would not revise its use-of-force policy, because making it more restrictive could put agents in danger.

Tuesday’s early-morning shooting occurred near the Otay Mesa border crossing. The agent in question, who had been separated from his partner, shot and killed Flores Cruz after being hit in the face with a rock, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Lt. Glenn Giannantonio told the San Diego Union-
that Flores Cruz threw several stones from a vantage point above the agent, including one the size of a basketball. The sheriff’s office also said the man’s fingerprints match those of a man arrested in 1996 by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

None of the agents involved in the deaths since 2010 have been charged with a crime.

Murillo said the U.S. government has the right to put as many Border Patrol agents as it wants along the frontier. “But between friendly countries, there needs to be justice. We have a duty to provide that,” he said. “Above all, because we are friends.”

Joshua Partlow is The Post’s bureau chief in Mexico. He has served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and as a correspondent in Brazil and Iraq.

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