US Border Patrol agent accused of murdering teenage Mexican acquitted; feds may consider retrial

The decision was reportedly reached by a federal jury in Tucson after four days of deliberation over the death of 16-year-old Antonio Elena Rodriguez.


                            US Border Patrol agent accused of murdering teenage Mexican acquitted; feds may consider retrial
(Source:Getty Images)

A United States Border Patrol agent, Lonnie Swartz, was acquitted by a jury on Monday after he was found not guilty of committing a second-degree murder, in the shooting of a Mexican teenager through the border fence, reports state.

The decision was reportedly reached by a federal jury in Tucson after four days of deliberation in the death of 16-year-old Antonio Elena Rodriguez. The incident occurred on October 10, 2012 between Arizona and Mexico. Reports state that the jurors on the case reached a deadlock on a separate charge of involuntary manslaughter against the agent. This reportedly led the judge to declare a mistrial on that count.

Federal prosecutors, however, could consider a retrial on lesser charges, according to Tucson.com.

Assistant US Attorney Wallace Kleindienst, after the verdict, said: "We are very disappointed for the family, for the victim and for the community."

The agent is accused of firing at least 16 shots in 34 seconds through the Nogales border fence at a group of people who were reportedly throwing rocks. The group included Elena Rodríguez, who died after he was hit eight times in the back and twice in the head during the onslaught. Swartz, during the shooting, emptied one magazine from his pistol before he reloaded his weapon and fired three more shots at the group.

Swartz, however, has said that he shot Rodriguez in self-defense after he threw rocks at him. The agent has been on leave without pay from the Border Patrol. 

The verdict triggered protests on Monday which blocked downtown streets in Tucson at night.

Federal prosecutors, last week, in the US District Court said that Swartz had fired his three final shots at the teenager. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Wallace Kleindienst, said that the agent continued to fire on the teenager while he was "till alive and fighting for his life after he was shot in the back." Kleindienst added that a final shot by Swartz to the teenager's head killed him.

 Swartz’s defense attorneys, Sean Chapman, however, said that the agent was in a "very dangerous situation who did the very best he could."