A U.S. Border Patrol agent was innocent of spontaneous manslaughter on Wednesday in the shooting death of a Mexican teenager through a border fence, marking another defeat for federal prosecutors in the second trial over the 2012 killing.
Lonnie Swartz, who is 43, was discharged by a federal jury in Tucson after two days of discussions in the death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.
Swartz had been discharged of a second-degree murder charge in April, but the jury remained deadlocked on two other charges, requiring a second trial that began in October.
Jurors on Wednesday rejected to make a decision on the higher charge of voluntary manslaughter against Swartz, opening the possibility that prosecutors could pursue that charge in a third trial.
Outside of the court, the boy’s family stated they would continue to push their case by pursuing a civil lawsuit and by asking the Mexican government to intervene.
Swartz was standing on an mound about 14 feet (4.27 m) above Elena Rodriguez and behind the 22-foot-high metal fence that detaches Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Sonora, when he fired 16 shots in 34 seconds, hitting Elena Rodriguez 10 times in the back and head. Swartz said he fired in self-defence after rocks were thrown at him and other agents.
The trial was a unique prosecution against a U.S. Border Patrol agent for using deadly force. The last such case in 2008 was concluded with the dismissal of charges.
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Wednesday’s judgement came as President Donald Trump was thinking of giving U.S. troops authority to protect immigration agents stationed along the U.S. border with Mexico if they come under threat from migrant’s quest to cross into the United States.
Trump executed his hard-line policies toward immigration a key issue ahead of midterm elections earlier this month.
Swartz has been placed on leave without pay from the Border Patrol while facing the criminal charges.