US border agent’s 2nd trial in teen’s killing goes to jury
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The fate of a U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of deliberately shooting at a Mexican teenager for throwing rocks across the border is in the hands of a jury.
Attorneys made closing arguments Friday in the federal voluntary manslaughter trial involving Lonnie Swartz, the Arizona Daily Star reports .
Federal prosecutors say Swartz fatally shot 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez multiple times across an international border fence in Arizona in 2012.
Deliberations come just months after the agent’s first trial ended in an acquittal on murder.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Mary Sue Feldmeier told jurors on the shooting was “unreasonable and unnecessary.”
When Swartz fired through the border fence at Nogales, down into Mexico 16 times, hitting Elena Rodríguez 10 times in the back and head, it wasn’t about defending human life, she said, it was about not giving in.
“There’s no justification for what happened that night,” Feldmeier said, saying use of deadly force should be a last resort.
But defense attorney Sean Chapman said Swartz was acting in self-defense.
“The government tried to downplay how dangerous it is to be a Border Patrol agent down by the border,” Chapman told the jury. “They must be living in an alternate universe that they want you to join them. Don’t do it. You were there, you know what it’s like.”
The jury visited the shooting site during the trial.
In addition to the criminal charges, Swartz is facing a civil rights lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the teen’s mother.
The shooting sparked outrage and came at a time when the Border Patrol was increasingly under scrutiny for its use of force, especially in rock-throwing incidents.
The agency has said rocks can be deadly. Chapman said the agency’s training calls for use of deadly force when agents are attacked and believe they’re in serious danger, even if it’s from rocks.
The prosecutor said Swartz didn’t have to shoot the teen or move to another spot and keep firing for a total of 16 shots, 10 of which struck Elena Rodriguez in the back and head.
The jury is scheduled to continue deliberating Monday.