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New details and recurring questions in border fence shooting

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

New details and recurring questions in border fence shooting

CREATED Oct 16, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith
   
NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - New developments are emerging in the border patrol shooting in Nogales and the death of a teenager on the Mexican side of the border fence.

Now, The Nogales International newspaper is reporting a detailed account of the shooting based on public records requests.
    
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said agents were chasing suspected drug smugglers and one or more fired a shot and hit someone.
    
Mexican authorities said an agent shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Rodriguez Elena at the wall last Thursday.
    
The newspaper is reporting that two Nogales police officers first reported two people jumped over the fence from Mexico.
   
One officer says he saw two men dressed in camouflage with bundles strapped to their backs so he ran after them. He lost them in the dark. Another officer spotted two men jumping back over the border fence to Mexico. That's when border patrol agents arrived.
    
The officers reported rocks thrown, so one officer took cover with his police dog "Tesko." A Border Patrol agent told him Tesko was hit, but not hurt.

The officers said they heard gunfire and one said he thought it was coming from Mexico.
    
The Nogales police officer then said, "I then heard an agent say, 'There is one 10-7,' which means out of service or no longer alive."
   
While the grandmother of Jose Antonio Rodriguez Elena mourns her grandson, questions persist about Border Patrol firing shots through the fence -- into another country -- to stop rock throwers.

The family said the 16-year-old was not throwing rocks and was just passing through when,  according to the family,  bullets hit him -- not once -- but seven times.
   
Nine On Your Side asked people in Nogales what they think of fighting rocks with bullets.

Marco chose not to give his last name. 

He said, "Well I think it wasn't fair for Border Patrol to open fire on someone that was throwing a rock. I understand their life was in danger but they took it to another extreme. Because rocks and bullets that's a totally different thing. What they could have done is instead of opening fire they could have just moved out of that area.

Agents said they face hundreds of rock attacks a year -- so many, some of their vehicles have extra protection to keep glass intact and agents uninjured.

There are still a lot of questions for investigators to answer. How much of a threat were rocks really that were thrown up and over such a tall fence? Could the agents have safely simply retreated out of the way of the rocks? How did someone shoot through the fence without a threat of a dangerous ricochet?
     
Some, like Vicky Dittemore believe agents have no way to know when rocks throwers may include someone who does have a gun.

"You just don't know," Dittemore said. "I think the police have the right to defend themselves. And whether there's a border fence there or not, you don't know what's on the other side so you don't want to take a chance with your own safety."

Questions about Border Patrol's use of force are not new.
     
The Southern Borders Community Coalition is concerned about what it sees as lack of accountability in shootings and lack of transparency in how they're investigated.
      
The Coalition pointed out Homeland Security's Inspector General has already been looking into allegations of excessive force by CBP agents. That investigation is at the request of a Senator and 14 House members.