Saturday, February 09, 2008

Family sues Border Patrol for death of son. After being shot, Peraza fell onto the pavement and Billings tried to handcuff him but other agents pulled him away. I never once thought in shooting this kid. Another BP Agent said.

The parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot and killed by an El Paso Border Patrol agent in 2003 will seek to convince a federal judge that the shooting was not justified at a civil trial starting Friday.

Cesar Peraza Barraza and his ex-wife Ramona Irene Quijada Soto, parents of Juan Patricio Peraza, are suing the United States seeking unspecified damages.
Peraza, who was 19 and an undocumented immigrant when he died, was shot on Feb. 22, 2003, near Annunciation House, a Downtown El Paso shelter for immigrants. In June of that year, an El Paso grand jury looking into the shooting decided against indicting Border Patrol agent Vernon Billings, the shooter.
The case drew criticism from community and religious leaders and Peraza's death was honored in a Mass in 2003 by El Paso Bishop Armando X. Ochoa and Las Cruces Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, attended by 200 supporters.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, an immigrants' rights group in El Paso, said the lawsuit will "make the agent accountable and will be good for the family (of Peraza) and the community."

"I also hope it will force the Border Patrol to clarify its procedures regarding use of force. It's important now that more and more Border Patrol agents are being hired," he said.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the case before its conclusion; as did Enrique Moreno, one of the lawyers representing Peraza's parents. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone, not by a jury.
According to documents filed in the case, the U.S. Attorney contends that Peraza's killing was self defense because Peraza had lunged at Billings with a pipe. Peraza was at least "50 percent at fault" for his death because he "negligently caused his own injuries and death by escaping from lawful custody, resisting arrest, and with a long steal pipe, assaulting the Border Patrol agents," according to court documents.

Peraza's lawyers say no eyewitness saw Peraza lunging at Billings, and that none of the five other Border Patrol agents surrounding Peraza felt he was an imminent danger since no one but Billings fired a weapon.

The incident started when Peraza was questioned by two Border Patrol agents outside the shelter. At some point, Peraza took off running, resisted arrest by one of the officers, taking swings at him, and seized a pipe. Soon, he was surrounded by five Border Patrol agents and a senior agent was trying to talk him into surrendering. Peraza was brandishing his pipe to keep the officers at bay and using foul language, according to court documents.
Yet, Agent Albert Ramirez said, "I never once thought in shooting this kid" because there was a safe distance between them.
Agent Billings was the last one on the scene, arriving when the negotiations had been ongoing for several minutes. Court documents, based on police interviews of the agents, showed that Billings ordered Peraza to drop the pipe and shot him twice.
"He wasn't even on the scene for five to 10 seconds when it happened. Ten is pushing it. I'd say five," said agent David Tope according to court records. After being shot, Peraza fell onto the pavement and Billings tried to handcuff him but other agents pulled him away, the record shows.

No comments: