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Border Patrol agent found not guilty on murder charges, hung jury on two lesser charges

Posted at 12:57 PM, Apr 23, 2018

Jurors have found Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz not guilty on the Second Degree Murder charge of shooting through the border fence and killing 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

Jurors could not come to an agreement on a verdict on the two lesser charges, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

If they wish, prosecutors can retry Swartz on the lesser charges only.

Friday jurors told Federal Judge Raner Collins they could not agree on a verdict.  The judge told them to continue deliberating. They could choose to convict Swartz on lesser charges of Voluntary Manslaughter or Involuntary Manslaughter.

Swartz testified he was protecting himself and other officers from rocks thrown over the border fence by people on the Mexican side trying to interfere with efforts to arrests smugglers who were trying to climb over the fence and into Mexico.

In closing statements to the jury, prosecutors said in his two years as a Border Patrol Agent, Swartz had rocks thrown at him six or seven times, and each time had responded by using less lethal weapons. Border Patrol may use items like guns that shoot an irritating pepper.

But the night of October 10, 2012, Swartz had been on duty at the DeConcini Port of Entry.  He had only his gun and used it to fire 16 rounds through the fence. Ten shots hit the 16-year-old Mexican teen.

Prosecutors say the threat against Swartz and other officers was not severe enough to justify deadly force and that they could have easily removed any threat by taking cover.

They say other agents took cover but Swartz was fed up with rockings, wanted to send a message, and did it by calmly walking to the border fence, taking careful aim, and firing 16 shots into Mexico.

Defense attorney Sean Chapman told the jury rocks are enough of a danger to justify deadly force and that there is no evidence to conclude Swartz fired out of anger over rock attacks. He said jurors should not base their verdict on surveillance video of that night because it is low quality and attempts to enhance it may have altered what it shows.


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