PHOENIX, ARIZONA – A teenage boy apparently killed this week by a U.S. Border Patrol agent was hit seven times by gunfire and died on a sidewalk just across the Arizona-Mexico border, a mayor in Mexico said Friday.
“It was a burst of gunfire,” Nogales Mayor Ramon Guzman Munoz told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “It was a hail of bullets.”
Guzman called the episode “deplorable” and urged a thorough investigation by both U.S. and Mexican authorities.
Meanwhile, the Border Patrol had not yet confirmed anyone was struck by the agent’s bullets, only that “it appeared someone had been hit,” agency spokesman Victor Brabble said Friday.
The Border Patrol said several agents responded Wednesday night to reports of suspected drug smugglers in Nogales, Ariz. The agents watched two people abandon a load of narcotics, then run back to Mexico, according to the Border Patrol. They were then pelted by rocks thrown from across the border. The agency said the people ignored orders to stop, and an agent open fire.
The Sonora state attorney general’s office in Mexico said in a statement Thursday that Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, from Nogales, Sonora, was found dead at the border from gunshot wounds about midnight Wednesday.
However, the office didn’t definitively confirm the boy had been shot by the Border Patrol, only noting that police received reports of gunshots, then found his body on a sidewalk near the border barrier.
A Mexican official with direct knowledge of the investigation confirmed the boy was shot by the agent, and said authorities were meeting Friday in Mexico City to discuss the case. The person also said the teenager had been shot multiple times in the back. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not yet authorized to discuss details of the case.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department issued a statement Thursday saying it “forcefully condemned” the shooting and calling such deaths “a serious bilateral problem.”
Border agents are generally allowed to use lethal force against rock throwers, and there are several ongoing investigations into similar shootings in Arizona and Texas.