Border Patrol agent accused of killing teenager testifies
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol agent charged in the 2012 fatal shooting of a teenager across the Mexican border testified Monday that he doesn’t remember much after he fired his weapon the first two times.
“I’ve struggled with this for 5 1/2 years,” said Lonnie Swartz, who was called to testify by defense attorneys after their first witness contradicted herself on the stand last week about hearing the shots.
“I want to remember. It’s a piece of my life wiped away and I can’t get it back,” Swartz added.
Swartz is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.
Prosecutors say Swartz fired 16 shots, hitting the teen 10 times including eight times in the back.
Elena Rodriguez was on a street in Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora, just across the border from Nogales, Arizona.
Swartz has said he fired in self-defense in response to people throwing rocks from the Mexico side during a drug smuggling attempt.
The U.S. Attorney’s office does not dispute that the boy was throwing rocks, but contends Swartz responded with an unreasonable amount of force.
Prosecutors say Swartz opened fire at about 11:30 p.m. in October 2012, shooting through metal poles of a 20-foot (6-meter) fence that sits on a 25-foot (about 7.6-meter) embankment above Mexico’s Calle Internacional, a street lined with homes and small businesses.
According to the Arizona Daily Star , surveillance videos show Swartz approaching the fence, firing three times, then moving up about 45 feet (13.7 meters), shooting 10 more times, stepping back to reload and firing three more shots.
Swartz told the jury while he was aware the first rock thrower was on the ground after he fired the initial shots, everything started getting “gray and distorted” after that point.
He testified that he can’t remember how far he had moved up the fence, how many shots he had fired or that he reloaded his weapon and fired again.
Since the trial began last month, much of the testimony has focused on whether Elena Rodriguez was still alive after Swartz fired his first few shots.
Prosecutors have said the teen was wounded but still alive when Swartz moved along the fence and fired most of the bullets. The defense has argued that Elena Rodriguez died from one of the first shots fired.
The trial in U.S. District Court in Tucson comes amid President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration and his promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border.