UPDATE: January 5, 2015 Former CBP Internal Affairs Chief describes surveillance video of the border shooting. In September 2014, Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz was indicted by a federal grand jury for second-degree murder.
In an interview with Telemundo, James Tomscheck, the ousted former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs office, gave what is likely the first public account of the surveillance video that captured the 2012 fatal shooting of Mexican teenager Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez by a Border Patrol agent in Nogales.
In the interview with Telemundo, Tomscheck tells Diaz-Balart that after visiting the scene he concluded that “the distance from where (Elena Rodriguez) was was such that no projectile he might throw could possibly clear the border fence.”
On the night of October 10, 2012, a Border Patrol agent in Nogales, Arizona fired at least 10 shots from his assault rifle at a teenager walking down the street below in Nogales, Sonora. Teenager José Antonio Elena Rodriguez was struck 10 times–hit in the head and multiple times in the chest and was killed.
The Border Patrol claimed the agent fired in self-defense after rocks were thrown at agents who were pursuing two drug smugglers. Their brief statement issued the following day notes that the agent “discharged his service weapon” and “one of the suspects appeared to have been hit.”
The Border Patrol’s account was disputed from the beginning, eye-witness accounts and the simple topography of the area reveal clear problems with the Border Patrol’s story.
Late last month, under increasing pressure from the media, the ACLU, immigrants rights groups and members of Congress, the Border Patrol released a report prepared by the Police Executive Research Forum, the agency tasked with evaluating strategy and policy of police departments nationwide. The PERF report, which reviewed 67 cases resulting in 19 deaths, found that Border Patrol agents have put themselves in harm’s way to justify use of force. In response to the report, the Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher released a revised handbook detailing new rules on use of force for Border Patrol agents.
On August 11, 2012, two months before the shooting, I happened to be in Nogales, visiting the area for a national border conference. I spent half a day on the south side of the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Sonora, taking photos of the border wall. Then I crossed the border and met my friend Scott Nicol, and we walked around and drove around Nogales, Arizona, taking photos of the border wall from the north side.
The spot where the body of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez was found, shot in the back with 7 bullets, was near the corner of Ingenieros and Internacional, streets that butt up against the border, in Nogales, Sonora, and I have photos of this area from both sides of the border from that day. This spot is across the street from the new bollard style border wall and a half block east of the Boundary Monument 122 pictured here.
I took the feature photo above of Boundary Monument 122 and mural from the street level on the Nogales, Sonora side, about a half block west of the corner of Ingenieros. Note the steep cliff face.
The boy was killed about 100 yards from the watchtower in this photo. The surveillance video that was recorded that night has not been released to the public, nor to José Antonio’s family. CBP delivered the video to the FBI who are now keeping it as evidence.
I took this photo (facing west) about a block and a half east of the site. Jose Antonio’s body was found right about where the dark blue Volkswagen is parked on the far left center of the photo. As is apparent from the photos, the street here is two car lanes wide, plus an extra 10-15 feet wider because of the diagonal parking spots along the north side. The border wall is high up on the cliff above the street.
VIEW from the US SIDE OF THE BORDER in Nogales, Arizona
The spot where José Antonio was shot and killed is directly south of border and a half block east from N. Hereford Dr, on the US side. Here you see Scott and I walking on the north side of the border– near N. Hereford Dr. to take photos of the border wall, to take photos of Boundary Monument 122. I took this photo of Scott Nicol, and I was facing west looking up the hill toward the boundary monument. Notice the watchtower in the distance visible directly above Scott’s left shoulder.
This photo is taken looking west, standing directly underneath the watchtower, which can be seen on the far left edge of the photograph. At this spot, the area on the US side is flat, but directly south of the border wall in Mexico, the wall is built on the top of a sheer cliff face, as noted in the first photo of the set.
At the site of the watchtower, you can look through the bollards of the border wall and get a view of Boundary Monument 122. Looking more closely, you can see how far it is down to the street below. This view is from the US side, looking through the bollards of the border wall down below into the Internacional Street of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Boundary Monument 122 is placed at the highest point along that street, between Ingenieros Street and Prof. Rodolfo Siordia Street.
The cliff face is extremely steep and high, and it appears highly unlikely that anyone could climb up that cliff and at the same time throw rocks. In addition, seen clearly on the Google maps, there is a watch tower at the very top, above the monument.
In light of recent reports of Border Patrol abuse of child migrants and systematic coverups on the part of the agency tasked with holding the Border Patrol accountable, it is more important than ever for the public to demand some answers.