A jury in Tucson, Az., acquitted a U.S. Border Patrol agent of manslaughter in the shooting of a Mexican teen through a border fence, the Associated Press reports. It was another loss for federal prosecutors after the second trial in the 2012 killing. Lonnie Swartz was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Swartz earlier was acquitted of second-degree murder by another jury that had deadlocked on manslaughter charges. Border Patrol agents are rarely criminally charged for using force. The killing of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez led to outrage on both sides of the border and came as the agency was increasingly scrutinized for its use of force.
Prosecutors said Swartz was frustrated over encounters with people on the Mexico side of the border fence who throw rocks at agents to distract them from smugglers. They say he lost his cool and fatally shot Elena Rodriguez. Swartz fired some 16 rounds and the boy was hit at least 10 times in the back and head. Swartz said he was following his training and defending himself and other law enforcement officers from rocks, which he said could be deadly. Prosecutors acknowledge that Elena Rodriguez was throwing rocks at agents while two smugglers made their way back to Mexico, but they said that wasn’t justification for taking his life. Swartz’s attorney, Sean Chapman, said Elena Rodriguez endangered the lives of the agents and a police officer who was on scene. Swartz still faces a civil rights lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the teen’s mother.