Judge finds LaMadrid shooting justified

Judge finds LaMadrid shooting justified

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A lawsuit filed against the federal government, and in particular a U.S. Border Patrol agent involved in a deadly border shooting, has been dismissed by a federal judge.

On March 21, 2011, 19-year-old Carlos La Madrid was shot by Border Patrol Agent Lucas Tidwell in Douglas, AZ.

LaMadrid, was hit three times in his back while climbing a ladder over the border fence in an attempt to escape officers following a chase, according to authorities. Those officers had information that LaMadrid was in an SUV transporting marijuana.

LaMadrid, a U.S. citizen from Douglas, did not have a weapon and fell to the ground after being shot. He later died at the hospital. Attorney Richard Gonzales sued the federal government on behalf of LaMadrid's mother, Guadalupe Guerrero, alleging that Tidwell acted, "outside the scope of his authority."

Guerrero argued the shooting that killed her son was "an appalling use of excessive force" because LaMadrid was not armed, had his back to pursuing officers as he climbed the ladder, and was therefore not posing a threat. Guerrero told the Associated Press in a subsequent interview that the Border Patrol had no right to take her son's life.

Federal Judge James Soto, in his Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law, ruled that Tidwell was justified in shooting his weapon, "Tidwell felt that his position was compromised. He did not feel safe where he was as he was uncertain how many people were involved in this escape given the recent appearance of the ladder, rocks sailing at him, and hearing many voices in Spanish that he did not understand."

Soto also addressed the credibility of four witnesses involved in the case. Soto wrote the testimony of Tidwell and a Douglas police officer was credible but called into question the credibility of two Mexican citizens who said they saw the shooting unfold from a construction site, "as to the two witnesses that Plaintiff presented who were allegedly eyewitnesses, (Galaz de la Torre and Juarez Chavarria) to the shooting, the Court did not find them credible," Soto ruled.

Soto continued, "They testified that they had an unobstructed view of the scene of the shooting. Directly contrary to the testimony of Gonzalez and Tidwell, Galaz de la Torre and Juarez Chavarria both testified that they never saw anyone at the top of the Fence near the time of the shooting and therefore never saw anyone throwing rocks at Tidwell when Tidwell fired shots that hit LaMadrid."

Soto also ruled, "On cross-examination, however, both Galaz de la Torre and Juarez Chavarria grudgingly admitted that they had illegally entered the United States on numerous occasions, had been apprehended by Border Patrol, and were sent back to Mexico after their apprehension. Galaz de la Torre admitted that he had been apprehended and sent back to Mexico on at least seven separate occasions. Juarez Chavarria admitted that he was stopped by Border Patrol on an occasion where he was driving a truck containing illegal aliens, and that on another occasion he was charged with misrepresentation in attempting to enter the United States and was deported back to Mexico. Both witnesses reluctantly admitted to these negative encounters with Defendant's immigration authorities. These witnesses appeared biased against Defendant, and their testimony was directly contradicted by the testimony discussed above. The Court did not find these witnesses to be credible."

Soto concluded, "based on the evidence and law before the Court, there is simply no legal relief that can be provided to the family. The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of Defendant and close the file in this case."

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