UPDATE: Protesters block I-10 on/off ramps for several hours
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Protesters took to the streets in Tucson on Monday, April 23, after a jury found Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz not guilty of murder in the 2012 shooting of a Mexican teen.
The protesters blocked the road where Congress and Broadway intersect with North Granada Avenue. At 6 p.m., they began walking down Broadway toward the freeway.
By 7:15 p.m., the protesters were blocking the Interstate 10 off-ramp at Congress, causing traffic to back up. Around 10:30 p.m. the protesters moved along Broadway heading back toward the federal courthouse, where the protest originally began.
A jury found Swartz not guilty of second-degree murder but was unable to reach a decision on the lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Because the jury could not come to an agreement, Judge Raner C. Collins dismissed them and declared a mistrial.
There is no word yet if the prosecution will attempt to retry the case.
The jury began their deliberations Monday, April 16, almost a month after the trial started in Tucson.
On Friday, April 20, the jury told Collins they were deadlocked and couldn't reach a verdict. Collins instructed the jury to go back and continue deliberating. They did, but then broke for the weekend.
Swartz is accused of opening fire from the Arizona side of the border into Nogales, Mexico and killing 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.
An autopsy showed Rodriguez, who was unarmed, was hit 10 times, mostly from behind.
Swartz's case is a rare Justice Department prosecution of a fatal cross-border shooting.
The trial began Tuesday, March 20 in U.S. District Court in Tucson.
Border Patrol has said Rodriguez was among a group of rock throwers endangering agents' lives. His family claims the boy was walking home from a basketball game with friends and was not armed or hurling rocks.
Swartz pleaded not guilty to the charge in 2015, when he was placed on administrative leave without pay.
Documents filed by prosecutors in 2016 reveal 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 a police dog was hit by one of the rocks thrown from across the border.
"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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