Seeking justice: Families fundraise ahead of Supreme Court hearing next week

Family to go to Supreme Court after son shot by Border Patrol

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Music filled the patio of La Indita Mexican restaurant in Tucson on Monday night, as a community rallied for families heading to Washington.

The family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez is among them.

It's been seven years since the death of 16-year-old Rodriguez.

Through a translator, his grandmother Taide Elena told KOLD News 13 after all the years, the pain has not subsided.

"I miss his presence. All of it," Elena said. "I miss him being there."

Rodriguez was shot and killed from across the U.S. Mexico border by U.S. Border Patrol agent - Lonnie Swartz. Evidence showed Rodriguez was shot 16 times in the back.

Swartz was acquitted of second-degree murder last year, after saying he was following training protocol when Rodriguez was throwing rocks across the border.

Yet despite the verdict, his family and Anna Maria Vasquez with the Border Patrol Victims Network still feel Swartz was in the wrong.

"No matter if you are one meter from the border - if you are killed by a U.S. Border agent, they must be responsible," said Vasquez.

The incident that caught national attention was not the first one like it.

In 2010, 15-year-old Sergio Guereca was killed by a border agent on the Mexican side of the El Paso/Mexico border when he was throwing rocks.

These incidents have helped these families and activists build a case.

"A lot of groundwork has been done for many years," said Vasquez. "We are humans, that's all we are."

The Elena and Guereca families have joined together to rally for change.

Vasquez explained courts in California and Texas have differing opinions on the issue.

California said Mexican families have the right to seek justice, while Texas said they don't have the constitutional right.

The families are headed to Washington on Nov. 12 for a hearing with the Supreme Court.

The hearing specifically involves the Guereca case, but a decision on this case could set a precedent for the case involving Rodriguez.

"We would really like to see a positive result. Theirs is the same as our case," said Elena. "We want the justice of being able to try in civil court."

This hearing could be a glimmer of hope for families on the other side of the border hoping to bring a lawsuit against government agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol.

Each dollar collected at the fundraising event brought the families one step closer to that goal.

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