UPDATE: Congress, Granada back open after earlier protest, no arrests made
The Tucson Police Department is reporting the roads are back open, as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, after a group of nearly 100 people blocked a downtown intersection in protest. No arrests were made.
UPDATE: As of 5:22 p.m., demonstrators blocked the intersection of Congress and Granada in downtown Tucson. The TPD closed the I-10 off ramps at Congress and Broadway to keep cars out of the area.
At 5:50 p.m., the protesters brought out rollers and glued posters that read “Jose Antonio” into the middle of the intersection at Congress and Granada.
At 6:15 p.m., the protesters moved east toward downtown but then made their way back to the intersection.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The jury has returned a not guilty verdict in the trial of Lonnie Swartz, the Border Patrol agent accused of killing a Mexican teen six years ago.
Swartz was facing a manslaughter charge in the death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was shot multiple times across the international border fence in Arizona in 2012.
This was Swartz’s second trial. He was acquitted of murder earlier this year, but a jury deadlocked on manslaughter charges.
Several people showed up outside the U.S. District Court in Tucson to protest the verdict. At least one demonstrator was taken away in handcuffs.
The Border Patrol Victims Network condemned the ruling and called for a review of the way Border Patrol handles violent offense involving agents.
Representative of the Border Patrol Union called the verdict a win, while Rodriguez’s family claimed the judicial process failed them.
"I just don’t see how they could try it again,” said Art Del Cueto, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council. “I know there is a lot of questions as to how much the National Border Patrol Council and the union has spent on the case itself, but I also think we need to start asking how much taxpayer money has been spent on this witch hunt.”
Swartz has been on leave and living in Nevada since the incident.
When asked whether Swartz will return to this post, union representative said it is something they will discuss but no decision has been made,
Taide Elena, Rodriguez’s grandmother, said she’s worried Swartz will return to law enforcement.
“They are now allowing this man to get another job, get another gun and continue killing,” she said.
Rodriguez’s family said they will keep fighting on both side of the border.
It’s rare for a Border Patrol agent to be criminally charged in circumstances involving a use of force case, but the agency was under heavy scrutiny over violent incidents when Swartz was first indicted in 2015, including many involving rock-throwers.
Swartz’s defensive team said Rodriguez was among a group of rock throwers endangering agents' lives and never disputed Swartz shot him. The prosecution did not disputed Rodriguez was involved in the rock throwing, but said the shooting was “unreasonable and unnecessary.”
Rodriguez's family has claimed he was walking home from a basketball game with friends and was not armed or hurling rocks.
An autopsy showed Rodriguez, who was unarmed, was shot 10 times, mostly from behind.
The Border Patrol Victims Network released the following statement after the verdict was released.
On the afternoon of November 21st, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez and his family were denied justice again. After a month of trial, a jury in a federal courtroom in Tucson, Arizona, decided that Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz will not be criminally convicted for the murder of José Antonio.
On October 10, 2012 Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz murdered José Antonio after shooting him 10 times in the back in 34 seconds from the U.S. side of the militarized border through the wall into Nogales, Sonora, where José Antonio stood. On April 23, 2018 a jury in a federal courtroom in Arizona acquitted Swartz of second-degree murder. The end of the second trial for lesser manslaughter charges ended with a not-guilty verdict for involuntary charges and a hung jury for voluntary manslaughter charges.
After the first trial, the Border Patrol Union said they had spent nearly a million dollars on the defense of Swartz, using that money to get away with murder. Federal Prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst said that Judge Collins had allowed Swartz’ to submit evidence that other judges might not. Such as the testimony of an anonymous informant known as “el señor”, paid $234,000 over 9 years to testify that José Antonio was involved “drug smuggling operations”.
Community organizer Eduardo Garcia adds, “the entire trial was a criminalization of José Antonio, his family, and border communities, instead of exposing Swartz and the Border Patrol’s impunity in the death and suffering of the community. Both the court and the prosecution have been complicit in allowing the Border Patrol Union to rely on racist stereotypes in their defense.”
Regardless of the court's decision, the community demands an end to Border Patrol agents’ impunity to kill and rejects the character assassination of José Antonio as a cartel member, instead of holding Lonnie Swartz accountable for his murder of a 16-year-old boy.
This act of injustice sets an alarming precedent for how state violence will be further enforced and justified within the border region, at the same time as we are witness the US government deploying thousands of active-duty military to the US/MX border.
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