By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court’s ruling that had let the family of a slain 16-year-old Mexican boy pursue a civil rights lawsuit against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot the teenager from across the border in Arizona.
The justices took the action in light of their ruling last Tuesday in a similar case in which they decided on a 5-4 vote to bar a lawsuit against another Border Patrol agent for fatally shooting a 15-year-old Mexican boy from across the border in Texas.
Last week’s ruling prevents civil rights lawsuits by foreign nationals in U.S. federal courts involving such cross-border incidents when the person who is injured or killed was not on American soil. The Supreme Court, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberals in dissent, backed the position taken by President Donald Trump’s administration in the case.
In the Arizona case, Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz killed Mexican citizen Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez in 2012. Swartz was prosecuted criminally for the shooting but a jury acquitted him on one count and deadlocked on another in 2018. He faced a second trial later that year on a separate charge and was acquitted.
Rodriguez had been walking down a street in Nogales, Mexico when Swartz, standing on an embankment on U.S. soil, fired through a border fence, striking the teenager about 10 times. Swartz said he acted in self-defense in response to a group of rock throwers, while Rodriguez’s family said the teenager was walking peacefully.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in 2018 that the lawsuit seeking damages for the killing could proceed.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)