Here is an excerpt from Olivia Torres and Christopher Sherman's Associated Press article in Yahoo! News:
"Mexicans are seething over the second death of a countryman at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents in two weeks, an incident near downtown El Paso that is threatening to escalate tensions over migrant issues. U.S. authorities said Tuesday a border patrol agent was trying to defend himself and colleagues when he fatally shot the 15-year-old as officers came under a barrage of big stones while trying to detain illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande... Preliminary reports on the incident indicated that U.S. officers on bicycle patrol "were assaulted with rocks by an unknown number of people," Border Patrol Special Operations Supervisor Ramiro Cordero said Tuesday... The shooting happened beneath a railroad bridge linking the two nations... Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state Attorney General's office, said a spent .40-caliber shell casing was found near the body — raising the question of whether the fatal shot was fired inside Mexico, although he did not explicitly make that allegation... U.S. official, meanwhile, said video shows the Border Patrol agent did not enter Mexico. [He] said the video also shows what seem to be four Mexican law enforcement officers driving to the edge of the dry but muddy bed of the Rio Grande, walking across to the U.S. side, picking up an undetermined object and returning to Mexico near the area where the boy's body was. According to the FBI, Border Patrol agents were responding to a group of suspected illegal immigrants being smuggled into the U.S. near the Paso Del Norte bridge, across from Ciudad Juarez around 6:30 p.m. Monday. One suspected illegal immigrant was detained on the levee on the U.S. side, the FBI said in a statement. Another Border Patrol agent arrived on the concrete bank where the now-dry, 33-foot (10-meter) wide Rio Grande is, and detained a second person. Other suspects ran back into Mexico and began throwing rocks, the FBI said. At least one rock came from behind the agent, who was kneeling beside a suspected illegal immigrant whom he had prone on the ground... The agent told the rock throwers to stop and back off, but they continued. The agent fired his weapon several times, hitting one who later died, said the FBI, which is leading the investigation because it involved an assault on a federal officer. The agent was not injured, Simmons said... T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, said rock throwing aimed at Border Patrol agents is common and capable of causing serious injury." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This is definitely the southwest border controversy of the moment (as if the USBP tasering of a meth addict a few days ago wasn't enough for you), and that means there's much about the situation to discuss - and speculate about. The investigation is ongoing, which means that new details come out every day, and often those details in today's media reports contradict yesterday's details. Please keep this in mind as the story unfolds. I've selected the above AP story to quote from because it seems to be the most detailed account published yet.
First, no one is really sure on which side of the border this incident occurred. The Mexican government says the USBP agent who fired his weapon did so (illegally) on Mexican soil. The FBI, so far, is saying that the incident occurred on the US side of the Rio Grande, and other US officials are claiming they have a video depicting Mexican law enforcement officers crossing the river (illegally) to pick up some unidentified object on the US side and bring it back to the Mexican side by the victim's body. The clear implication here is that the object was the spent .40-caliber casing of one of the bullets fired by the USBP agent. I don't know what will come of that video; I do know that if it comes down to he-said-she-said pure witness testimony, you're going to have a slew of contradictory accounts regarding where the agent was and where the boy was.
Then, of course, there's the bigger issue of whether or not the shooting was warranted. Many people (and certainly the victim's family and Mexican government, in this case) would say that the use of a gun wasn't warranted to "mere" rock throwing. Well, you might be surprised at the circumstances under which it is, as this isn't the first time such an incident has occurred, and agents have been cleared of any wrongdoing. First of all, USBP use-of-force guidelines permit agents to use their handguns against rock throwers if they feel their or their colleagues' lives are being threatened. I've seen pictures of agents who have been hit by rocks, and in many cases, it's not pretty - particularly a recent incident where an agent lost an eye after being hit with a rock the size of a brick. We're not talking pebbles here, folks. Some of these "rocks" being used are huge, and could kill someone if hit hard enough in the head.
Now, it's bad enough to have to deal with rock throwers one-on-one. But some of the media accounts lead me to believe this agent may have been ganged-up on by several rock throwers at once. I don't know if that's the case, or what size the rocks are. I will tell you that if he was in a prone position holding someone down by himself, then all of a sudden starting getting hit by softball-sized rocks being thrown by three people, I wouldn't be surprised at all that he drew his gun and started firing. I know I'd be in fear for my life, as pepper spray and a taser gun - even a baton - wouldn't cut it in that situation. Just my personal opinion.
Actually, here's an example of a previous similar incident. In 2005, a USBP agent shot an 18 year-old who was throwing rocks at him near the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing. The boy died, and an extensive inquiry began regarding the agent's use of force during the incident. He was cleared of all wrongdoing, and the investigation showed there wasn't enough evidence to charge him with anything. In 2007, another agent shot and killed a 22 year-old Mexican national near the border after the tried to smash the agent's head with a large rock. After the agent was acquitted of wrongdoing, the victim's family filed a civil suit against the US government, and the Mexican government filed a protest similar to what it's doing now. Again, nothing came of the suit.
Bottom line, it's easy to condemn or support certain actions when you don't know all the facts. I'll be perfectly up front in saying I'm biased towards law enforcement since I used to be a military federal agent; that shouldn't come as a surprise to any of my regular readers. That's not to say that US agents don't ever make mistakes or have clouded judgment. However, many Americans don't understand what it's like to be working on the border every single day, often in the searing heat, and having to deal with drug smugglers (who are often armed) and belligerent illegal immigrants. Last year, there were over 1,000 violent incidents perpetrated against USBP agents. There was a two percent drop in the number of incidents from the previous year, but that's the first drop (however small) in several years. I'm just saying that before people start going ballistic about the big bad US agent with a gun firing indiscriminately against some hapless immigrant, they should think about the threats being faced every day by our agents along the border, and wait to find out more about what happened in this specific case before passing judgment.