Arizona Border: On The Front Lines
Rocks vs. bullets: Border Patrols shoots and kills teen in Mexico, family awaits answers
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
NOGALES, Sonora, Mex. (KGUN9-TV) - Border Patrol agents constantly face all types of threats along the fence. The most common: rock throwers. It's considered such a threat, Border Patrol policy states agents can fire back bullets. But a shooting last October is now raising eyebrows.
His name was Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. He was just 16-years-old when he died. Border Patrol says he was a lethal threat, a rock thrower. But his family claims their boy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 9OYS traveled into Mexico to meet with Jose's family, a family that just wants to know why.
October 10th, late at night, along International Street, agents respond to reports of suspected smugglers in the area. They get to the fence. That's when they say rocks start flying.
Agents open fire across the fence. When the gunfire stopped, Jose lay dead on a sidewalk in Mexico.
"I still don't understand," said Taide Elena, Jose's grandmother. "I just don't get it."
Mexican Police began their investigation minutes after Jose died. The family says he was just walking home. Meanwhile, U.S. authorites aren't divulging anything about this case. But 9OYS obtained Jose's autopsy report, conducted in Mexico. Documents show agents fired more than 20 bullets. At least 8 struck Jose, once in the head. The rest throughout his body.
""They [BP agents] saw him down. They kept shooting and shooting and shooting, until they destroyed him. Why? Why so many bullets? He wasn't armed," said Araceli Rodriguez, Jose's mother.
Border Patrol could not talk specifics of this case, but they did provide us this video. It shows some of the havoc a rock can cause. Then on 9OYS's trip down to the border. They told us this.
"When you're getting physically assaulted like you saw in those videos, or being shot at
But if there's evidence that Jose posed a dangerous threat that night, no one's seen it.
"The wall's too high," Rodriguez said. "How can they think he was strong enough to hurl a rock up over the wall to hurt anyone."
Along International Street, where it happened, the U.S. side is at least fifteen feet higher than the Sonoran side. The bullet holes still line the walls of a medicine shop. Then there are the cameras, perched right above where Jose was shot.
"They [the agents] violated the boy's rights, they violated the nation's rights, they violated everything," said Elena.
The Mexican government already wrapped up its investigation. Its condemned the shooting and called for the U.S. to quickly release its findings, before U.S. bullets cross into their country again and kill someone else.
""They [BP agents] keep doing it [shooting across the border]. And they'll keep doing it forever, if the U.S. and Mexican governments don't step in and do something," said Elena.
All the family can do now is wait for answers. But that wait is grueling. Life in Sonora, without their son, forever heart-wrenching.
"I want to hear his voice... a lot of people tell me time will heal this wound. But I believe the more time goes by, the worse it will hurt," said Rodriguez.
9OYS reached out to the FBI to check on the status of this investigationo. A spokeswoman tells KGUN9 that the investigation is ongoing, and there is no timetable for its completion.
Allegations of excessive force are nothing new for Border Patrol . That's why right now, U.S. Homeland Security inspectors are reviewing Border Patrol's policies. That report is due out sometime this year.
This story is part of a KGUN9 On Your Side special called Arizona Border: On The Front Lines.