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Judge releases name of Border Patrol agent in fatal shooting

Judge orders that name of agent who shot Mexican teen through border fence be made public

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the name of a Border Patrol agent who shot and killed a Mexican teenager through the border fence will be made public as part of a lawsuit by the boy’s mother.

The agent’s lawyers argued that his name be kept from the public to prevent harassment, but Judge Raner C. Collins in Tucson said that the agent’s privacy concerns are outweighed by the public’s interest in the case.

Collins' ruling ordered the court clerk to amend the case to identify the agent as Lonnie Swartz, though he said no other information about the man is to be disclosed. Previously the suit had listed the defendant as "Unknown Party." 

Collins also ordered sealed documents to be open to the public.

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, was fatally shot in October of 2012 as he walked along a street parallel to the border fence in Nogales, Mexico. Swartz was on the Arizona side of the border when he fired.

The Border Patrol has said the agent had been hit by rocks when he responded to reports of drug smugglers climbing the fence.

But a wrongful death suit filed this summer by the teenager's mother, Araceli Rodriguez, said he had just finished a basketball game with friends and was shot as he walked along Calle Internacional, a major boulevard.

“It is only fair, considering the fact that Jose Antonio’s name has been in the public eye for more than two years, that the name of the agent accused in his killing be known too,” family attorney Luis Parra said in a statement Thursday.

The Border Patrol declined to comment on the ruling Thursday afternoon, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Victor Brabble.

The Border Patrol has been criticized by legal experts for a "lack of diligence" in investigating U.S. agents who had fired their weapons.

A scathing independent review of 67 shooting cases that resulted in 19 deaths found that agents have stepped in the path of oncoming cars to justify shooting at the drivers and fired in frustration at rock throwers instead of moving away from them.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioned the review but had tried to prevent the full version from becoming public. 

"We are pleased that the court recognized the values of transparency and accountability, which have been lacking with respect to Border Patrol activities,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement Thursday. “The court rejected the agent's extraordinary request that his identity be hidden, making clear that the Border Patrol must operate under the same rules of openness as all other law enforcement agencies." 

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