Border Agent attacked with rocks, kills suspect
Agent said he was hit in the head with a rock and fired at least twice in fear for his life
By Elliot Spagat
SAN DIEGO — Authorities say a man shot after throwing large rocks at a U.S. Border Patrol agent was a 41-year-old Mexican citizen who died after suffering two gunshot wounds.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department released the name of Jesus Flores-Cruz on Wednesday night along with the new information on his death.
Authorities said the identity of Flores-Cruz was confirmed by a fingerprint match with a 1996 arrest by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. No further details on the arrest were released.
The Sheriff's Department says that on Tuesday morning Flores-Cruz began throwing increasingly large rocks at the unidentified agent who suspected him of crossing the border illegally.
The agent said he was hit in the head with a rock and fired at least twice in fear for his life.
The agent, whose name was not disclosed, was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released.
Under current policy, agents can use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that their lives or the lives of others are in danger. The Border Patrol has long maintained rocks can be lethal weapons.
The Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group that led a government-commissioned review, recommended that the Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, prohibit deadly force against rock-throwers and assailants in vehicles, Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher told The Associated Press last year. Customs and Border Protection rejected the proposed curbs, which Fisher called "very restrictive."
Agents were attacked with rocks 339 times in the 2011 fiscal year, more than any other type of assault, according to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. They responded with gunfire 33 times and with less-than-lethal force — a category that includes pepper spray and batons — 118 times.
Rock attacks fell to 185 instances in fiscal 2012, becoming the second-most-common type of assault. Agents fired guns 22 times and responded 42 times with less-than-lethal force.
Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas didn't address specifics when asked about the shooting Wednesday but said the Border Patrol's use-of-force policy would be publicly released.
"We are committed to ensuring the safety of our men and women who put their lives on the line on the border," he said. "At the same time we are committed to ensuring that our use-of-force policies are a reflection of best practices."
A spokesman for the union representing Border Patrol agents said Tuesday that he was confident the investigation into the latest killing would find the agent did nothing wrong.
"The easiest way to stop these incidents from happening is to stop attacking Border Patrol agents," said Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council.
Mitra Ebadolahi, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial counties, said there wasn't enough public information to say if the agent was justified but that the killing raised familiar questions about whether the Border Patrol can respond to rock attacks with nonlethal force.
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