New details from two key witnesses were heard in the trial against the U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot and killed an unarmed Mexican teen. 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez of Nogales, Mexico was throwing rocks at agents through the border fence when he was shot 10 times in the head and back.
Both Border Patrol witnesses were in the area when fellow Agent Lonnie Swartz fired on the teen and responded within minutes to the scene of the shooting. Swartz killed Elena Rodriguez on Oct. 10, 2012, the same time suspected drug smugglers were retreating into Mexico.
Agent Leo Cruz-Mendez testified that when he arrived at the scene, Swartz "was kneeling down and his weapon was pointed toward the border fence." Cruz-Mendez then spoke of how he tapped Swartz on the shoulder and said, "Everything is going to be OK." Then Swartz looked at him and began throwing up.
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Cruz-Mendez continued, "He says, 'Sir, you don't understand, you don't understand.' He said he had fired his weapon and that he had hit someone." When he asked how many shots he had fired, Swartz replied that he did not recall. Cruz-Mendez then swapped handguns with Swartz so he could preserve it as evidence.
Swartz also retrieved an empty magazine which can hold up to 12 rounds from his pocket and handed it to him. "When he gave me his magazine, it caught my attention, the amount of shots that had been fired," Cruz-Mendez recalled. They waited over an hour for a special-crimes unit from Border Patrol's Tucson headquarters to arrive and investigate.
<img src="https://media.8ch.net/file_store/83eda780c9ffb6edc7e07610d38a45a08e689a7d0329148a3c2c0e8946d5f0af.jpg" style="max-height:640px;max-width:360px;">
<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Jose's mother at an anniversary vigil Oct, 8, 2010 | Nick Oza/The Republic</span>
Cruz-Mendez also spoke of how he ordered agents to secure the area and take photos to preserve the scene. Some photos included several rocks that were allegedly thrown along the street. He also spoke with Mexican officials through the fence and noticed "a big crowd, and I saw someone on the ground, a deceased person, across the street, on the sidewalk."
During his testimony, Cruz-Mendez recalled having rocks thrown at him three or four times during his nine years of being stationed in Nogales. He also indicated he had never fired his weapon in response but acknowledged that each situation is unique and it is "common sense" that rocks can cause serious bodily injury or harm.
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The second agent to testify, Shandon Wynecoop, recalled responding to a call of two smugglers who had jumped the fence over the border. Wynecoop testified he was waiting for the men to retreat to Mexico or come down the U.S. side of the border so he could arrest them. That is when rocks began raining down forcing he and a Nogales police officer with a K-9 to retreat to avoid injury.
A rock bounced off the ground and struck Wynecoop's shoe as well as the K-9 police dog. "I was pretty scared," he said, adding he "didn't know what direction" the rocks were coming from. "I didn't know how many people were throwing rocks and how long it was going to continue."
That is when Swartz walked up to the fence and began firing his weapon. The danger presented by the rocks are key to the defense argument that deadly force was justified. Prosecutors say his response was disproportionate and unlawful. During the testimony, prosecutors played a surveillance video of the shooting and asked Wynecoop if Swartz had drawn his weapon.
"By the posturing it seems like he had," Wynecoop replied. The prosecutor then asked him, "Rocks still hadn't fallen, right?" Wynecoop responded, "No."
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