April 23, 2018 — The jury in the murder trial of Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz has just returned with a not guilty verdict on the second-degree murder charge. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the two lesser charges brought against Swartz. News reports and community mobilization are still developing in the wake of this decision.
Swartz was on trial for the murder of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, who was killed by Swartz on October 10, 2012. On this night, Swartz targeted José Antonio, firing 16 bullets in 34 seconds from three different positions. He shot through the border fence in Nogales, Arizona, striking José Antonio ten times — eight times in the back and twice in the head. Forensic analysis found that Jose Antonio was already on the ground when Swartz continued to fire his gun. During the trial, the prosecution said the fact that Swartz continued to fire his weapon even after José Antonio was on the ground demonstrates the agent acted deliberately and with reckless disregard for human life.
Like everyone else in this community and, indeed, around the world, Colibrí is still reeling from this decision by the jury. In the meantime, we wish to express our outrage at the not guilty verdict as well as our support for the Elena Rodriguez family in this immensely painful moment. José Antonio’s family, friends, and community have spent the past six years carrying out tremendous acts of remembrance and love. They have beautifully kept his memory alive and courageously called for justice in his murder. This is a shameful day for the Tucson community and for everyone who believes in the justice system to actually deliver justice.
Today’s verdict is a clear and heartbreaking demonstration of the violent policing of the border and the lack of accountability in these all too frequent instances of deadly force. Indeed, this is a trend that exists in policing throughout the U.S. and around the world. Today, we renew our call for increased oversight, transparency, and, most of all, accountability within Border Patrol, an agency that has thousands of agents policing border communities that extend hundreds of miles past the actual border line. We echo our fellow community members in saying that the over-policing of border communities must end.
Along with our community, Colibrí demands justice for José Antonio Elena Rodriguez and justice for his family and all those who continue to suffer his loss.