US agent goes on trial in Mexican teen cross-border killing

Lonnie Ray Swartz. (Source: Maggie Keane)
Lonnie Ray Swartz. (Source: Maggie Keane)
Updated: Mar. 19, 2018 at 5:01 PM MST
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Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez (Source: Elena Rodriguez Family)
Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez (Source: Elena Rodriguez Family)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A U.S. Border Patrol agent is going on trial on a second-degree murder charge this week in a rare Justice Department prosecution of a fatal cross-border Mexico shooting.

Lonnie Swartz is charged with opening fire from the Arizona side of the border into Nogales, Mexico more than five years ago and killing 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

An autopsy showed the unarmed teen was hit 10 times, mostly from behind.

The trial starts Tuesday, March 20 in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

It comes amid President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown and pledge for a towering wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Swartz' defense lawyers claim the teen was throwing rocks just before he was shot to create a distraction for a drug smuggling attempt.

Prosecutors do not dispute that the teen threw rocks.

Documents filed by prosecutors in 2016 reveal that Border Patrol Supervisor Leo Cruz-Mendez said he was surprised to see Swartz at the fence on the night of the shooting. Swartz had been assigned to work at a nearby port of entry.

Cruz-Mendez told the grand jury he told Swartz everything was OK after the shooting, but the agent began to vomit.

According to the documents, Swartz said people were throwing rocks from the other side of the fence and hit a police dog.

"I shot and there's someone dead in Mexico," he continued, and produced and empty ammunition magazine from his pocket, according to court records.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has refused to release surveillance camera footage of the incident.

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