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SCOTUS Will Hear Border Shooting Case -- One

Road next to a fence in a  clear day.
By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 03, 2019 6:00 AM

Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca was with a group of boys throwing rocks when a border patrol agent shot him. Allegedly, they were throwing rocks at Agent Jesus Mesa because he was trying to stop a young man who had run across the border. The agent shot across the Rio Grande river, killing Hernandez on Mexican soil. He was 15.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear the case. It will be the second time for the plaintiffs, but not the first time a border patrol agent has killed a Mexican national.

Deadly Force

Mesa shot Guereca in 2010, and the boy's survivors sued the agent. The Supreme Court heard the case originally in 2017, reversing and remanding it to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after the intermediate court had dismissed it. The Fifth Circuit ruled against the plaintiffs again last year, so they petitioned the High Court. This time, the justices will consider whether the plaintiffs can sue for unjustified use of deadly force and for due process violations under the Constitution.

A similar civil rights case is pending before the Supreme Court involving agent Lonnie Swartz, who fatally shot Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez across the border in 2012. Rodriguez was 16. Like the Hernandez, Rodriguez was shot during a rock-throwing incident. Swartz shot him ten times, eight bullets lodging in the boy's back. The agent was charged with second degree murder, but a jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Civil Rights

Court-watchers say the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, has been reluctant to extend the scope of civil rights protections. The Trump administration urged the High Court not to hear the Hernandez and Rodriguez cases.

In the Hernandez matter, the Border Patrol said he was throwing rocks at U.S. agents. The FBI said he was a known smuggler who also guided illegal immigrants across the border. His family said Hernandez was playing a game with his friends when he was shot. The boys would run across the border, touch U.S. soil, and run back. Of course, not all of them made it.

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