Vigil calls for justice ahead of manslaughter retrial for Border Patrol agent

Vigil calls for justice ahead of manslaughter retrial for Border Patrol agent
A vigil was held Wednesday evening at the spot where a sixteen-year-old was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent six years ago. (Source: Tucson News Now)

NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Six years ago, a Mexican teen was shot and killed through the Nogales border wall. On Wednesday, family and friends of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez returned to the spot to remember the 16-year-old.

“The family has had six years of grief, but they’ve also had six years of struggle," said Richard Boren, a volunteer with the Border Patrol Victims' Network.

The struggle for the Elena Rodriguez family started on October 10, 2012, when the teen was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent, identified as Lonnie Swartz. An autopsy showed Elena Rodriguez, who was unarmed, was shot 10 times, mostly from behind.

A jury found Swartz not guilty of second-degree murder in April of this year. However, a judge declared a mistrial for the manslaughter charge, on which the jury could not agree on a verdict. The retrial is scheduled for the end of the month.

Border Patrol has said Rodriguez was among a group of rock throwers endangering agents' lives. The prosecution did not dispute Rodriguez was involved, but his family claimed the boy was walking home from a basketball game with friends and was not armed or hurling rocks.

“Jose Antonio was a good kid, he wanted to be a soldier and he was a normal kid. He was not a drug smuggler and that truth has got to come out in this trial, there’s got to be justice," said Boren.

The spot of the shooting, now a sanctuary for the Elena Rodriguez family. Boren said they have been holding vigils at the white cross every month, preparing for another trial.

“Push us, recharge the family and give them strength and energy to face another brutal trial," said Boren.

Earlier this month, an attorney for Swartz requested the manslaughter retrial be moved from Tucson to Phoenix, arguing the news coverage of the first trial had tainted the jury pool in southern Arizona to such a degree that his October retrial should be moved to Phoenix.

A U.S. District Judge rejected that request. The retrial is scheduled for October 23, 2018.

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