Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Big Questions Still Unanswered in Border Patrol Fatal Shooting of Rock-Thrower on Mexico Side

The twice-weekly Nogales International is doing a singularly excellent job covering the aftermath of a shooting by a Border Patrol agent of a 16-year-old who was in a small group throwing rocks at U.S. agents who responded to a smuggling attempt from the Mexican side. Here's a link to the current story.

Reporters for the paper obtained the reports from the scene not of the Border Patrol, but of two local police officers who responded to the disturbance last week.

“I immediately got behind cover, and remained in the area during the gunfire,” one wrote, referring to the gunshots fired across the fence, evidently from a hill, by the U.S. agents. The police officers names are Garcia and Zuniga.

According to the Nogales newspaper, "When the firing stopped, Garcia walked into the open and met with Zuniga and several Border Patrol agents, who told him that a male suspect had been throwing rocks at the agents from Mexico. 'The male subject had been shot by one of the U.S. Border Patrol agents,' Garcia wrote.'I saw that around the immediate area of the scene where the units were stopped at, there were many medium sized rocks scattered on the street and sidewalk,' he wrote."

Good reporting. But I have mentioned previously that reporters and editors across the board these days -- whether in local or national news organizations -- seem to need some drilling in using words precisely. Note the paraphrased word "suspect" in the excerpt above -- when the actual police report refers to the dead youth more neutrally as "subject."  And incidentally, it does not appear that the rock-throwing youth, who was shot at least six times, was one of the two smugglers who agents said tried get over the fence with a backpack of marijuana.

The most serious unanswered (and as far as I can see unasked) question is this: When they saw that rocks were being tossed from the Mexican side, why didn't the Border Patrol agents simply retreat to a place where the rocks couldn't reach them? After all, they do not seem to have been pinned down, and the Mexican rock-throwers were unable to advance over the border.

Among the other questions that remain unanswered:

--How many shots were fired? Mexican reports say that besides the bullet-riddled youth, a nearby building was also riddled with bullets.

--How far away were the Mexican assailants when they tossed rocks across the fence?

--Where specifically were the Border Patrol agents?

The Nogales paper reported that a surveillance video was routinely made of the incident. The video  will answer at least some of the questions.


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