/ Modified mar 22, 2018 10:54 a.m.

Opening Arguments Delivered in Murder Trial Against Border Agent

The prosecution says the agent acted as judge, jury and executioner. The defense says the agent feared for his life.

Mexican shooting memorial spotlight Memorial for Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez in Nogales, Sonora
Mariana Dale, AZPM

LISTEN

The trial of Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz continued Wednesday with opening arguments. Swartz is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a 16-year-old Mexican national through the international fence.

The basic facts if the case are not in dispute by either side. Rocks were being thrown at Border Patrol and Nogales police to distract agents from catching two men scaling the border fence to get back to Mexico. The two had dropped off backpacks of marijuana on the U.S. side.

The prosecution conceded that 16-year-old Jose Elena Rodriguez was part of the team and did throw rocks, but said agent Swartz acted as judge, jury and executioner. He shot across the border fence into Mexico three times, dropping Rodriguez – then moving locations, firing eight more times, reloading and firing three more times.

The prosecution went on to tell jurors that Swartz kept shooting at Rodriguez as the teen laid face down and that he was dropped with the first round of shots.

The defense did not argue that it was Swartz who did the shooting but claimed he was in fear for his life and the lives of other officers. The defense told jurors that rock are deadly weapons. And that agents are trained to use deadly force when they area assailed by rock throwers.

Art Del Cueto portrait Art Del Cueto, Border Patrol union official.

Art Del Cueto, president of the local chapter of the Border Patrol Union, agrees.

"If you just Google 'Border Patrol agents getting rocked' you will find many pictures of agents that have been severely hurt and maimed.”

The courtroom was standing room only with off-duty agents on one side and Rodriguez family members and supporters on the other. The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized Swartz' employment status. He is still employed by Border Patrol.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
Arizona Public Media broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents. Arizona Public Media and AZPM are registered trademarks of the Arizona Board of Regents.
The University of Arizona