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Family of Mexican teen killed by border agent sues

Accused of wrongful death and civil rights violations in the fatal shooting of a Mexican boy who threw rocks in June

Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas — A federal lawsuit filed Monday in Texas accuses the U.S. Border Patrol of wrongful death and civil rights violations in an agent's fatal shooting of a 15-year-old Mexican boy in June.

The lawsuit filed in El Paso on behalf of the family of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca seeks $25 million in damages from the U.S. government. The agency has not released the name of the agent involved in the shooting.

The Border Patrol agent shot and killed Hernandez on June 7 while trying to arrest illegal immigrants crossing the bed of the Rio Grande. According to the lawsuit, FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons has said a group of people on the Mexican side were throwing rocks at agents. Agents are generally permitted to use lethal force against rock throwers.

But witnesses have denied the reported rock-throwing, family attorney Bob Hilliard of Corpus Christi, Texas, said Monday.

A message left with a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in El Paso was not returned Monday, which was a federal holiday.

Federal arrest records obtained by The Associated Press shortly after the June 7 shooting showed the Ciudad Juarez teen had been arrested at least four times since 2008 and twice in the same week in February 2009 on suspicion of smuggling illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. He never was charged with a crime.

It their lawsuit, Hernandez's family contends the teen and his friends were running up to the barbed-wire U.S. border fence, touching it, then scampering away when a border agent detained one of the boys. Hernandez had retreated and was watching the scene from beneath the international bridge when the agent pointed his gun across the border and fired twice, fatally wounding the boy with at least one wound to the face, according to the lawsuit.

"More U.S. border agents arrived on scene, the shooter picked up his bicycle, and then they all left. No one took any action to render emergency medical aid to Sergio, leaving him dead or dying beneath Paseo del Norte Bridge in the territory of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, Mexican police arrived on scene and pronounced Sergio dead," the 38-page complaint stated.

Hilliard said the teen "had no weapon and was no imminent threat to the officer" and that witnesses have told a grand jury the boy was an innocent bystander.

"Flip the situation. How would the American people respond if the (Mexican) federales fired a shot across the border and killed a 15-year-old American boy?" Hilliard said.

Federal officials had previously spelled the boy's maternal name as Huereca, but the family's complaint says the correct spelling is Guereca.

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