For the first time, a U.S. Border Patrol agent has been indicted on a murder charge after shooting and killing a Mexican national through the border fence, the Los Angeles Times reports. The border Arizona shares with Sonora, Mexico, is a hot spot for getting “rocked”–shorthand for pieces of concrete that are thrown at agents over the fence. The Border Patrol's policy is to treat such rock-throwing as a threat to agents' lives, and they are permitted to respond with lethal force. In 2012, agent Lonnie Swartz fired at least 10 rounds through the border fence into Nogales. At least eight rounds struck Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, who bled to death.
It is common for agents to shoot through the border fence, and they usually avoid discipline in such cases. On Wednesday night, a grand jury handed up an indictment of second-degree murder. Border Patrol union representatives have resisted scrutiny of agents in similar cases, saying that such analysis would force agents to waste valuable seconds considering their response rather than acting to protect themselves or their fellow agents. The National Border Patrol Council, a union for agents, said it would mount a vigorous defense of Swartz. The Border Patrol has acknowledged that it has a problem with agents shooting foreign nationals. New rules say agents under assault with rocks should first retreat, rather than shoot, and should avoid firing at people in cars.