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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Last updated: 4:12am

Border Parol-involved shootings require closer scrutiny



It seems that disproportionate response is becoming more common in border shootings, with little afterthought as to how and why these incidents keep occurring.

The agency that stands out among all others is the U.S. Border Patrol. No other law enforcement agency seems to have such a high number of incidents involving meeting rocks with bullets.

José Antonio Elena Rodríguez was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent on Oct. 10. The agent fired across the border during a confrontation in which Elena Rodríguez and others were throwing rocks at agents.

The agents were responding to a call about two people climbing over the fence on the Nogales border between Arizona and Mexico. When they arrived, people on the Mexico side began throwing rocks at the agents and police officers from Nogales, Ariz.

That’s when a Border Patrol agent shot and killed 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. He is the 16th civilian victim of Border Patrol shootings since 2010.

The Border Patrol justifies its use of deadly force against rock throwers, saying that rocks can seriously injure people.

While it is true that rocks pose a physical threat and should be taken seriously, it is just as important to take other factors into consideration when looking into whether or not the agent’s actions were justified.

In a photo from the Arizona Daily Star taken from the Mexico side of the border, it is clear that rock throwers would have had to overcome a steep hillside and a tall iron fence when aiming at Border Patrol agents.

The bottom of the photo depicts parked cars that give perspective to just how high a rock would have to be thrown to reach agents on the other side.

In all likelihood, the rocks being pelted over the fence were small and posed no real threat. Considering the height of the hill and the fence (about 40 feet, according to the Arizona Daily Star), rocks would either have to clear the top of the fence or go through the iron poles lining the fence.

Border Patrol’s justification seems even more doubtful when, according to the article, Elena Rodríguez was standing across the street on the sidewalk.

Law enforcement agents, though trained to handle firearms, should still use them only as a last resort. When police shot and killed an armed gunman outside the Empire State Building in New York in August, fragmented police bullets and shrapnel injured nine bystanders.

That was a matter of self-defense. Shooting Elena Rodríguez wasn’t.
According to the Arizona Revised Statutes, in justifying use of deadly physical force, a person must believe that the person they are defending themselves against is “using or attempting to use unlawful deadly physical force.”

Aiming downward and shooting through an iron-poled fence at a 16-year-old standing 40 feet below you across the street does not meet that definition.

— Andres Dominguez is a senior studying journalism and political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu: letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @ReporterAndres .


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