Last October, we wrote about the tragic death of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Nogales, Mexico. Initial reports at the time had said that border agents from the US side shot 14 times, hitting the teenager with seven bullets. The reason Elena Rodríguez was killed? For throwing rocks over the border fence between Arizona and Mexico.
This week, Elena Rodríguez’s autopsy was made public, and the information reported by USA Today suggested the he was struck by 11 bullets and that “all but one of as many as 11 bullets that struck the boy entered from behind.”
Here is what the article reported:
“The only way I can fathom that report is that he was lying on his face when he was hit,” said Luis Parra, an attorney representing the Elena Rodriguez family.
Border Patrol spokesman Vic Brabble declined to comment on the autopsy report, citing an ongoing FBI investigation. The FBI also declined to comment.
Gregory Hess, the Pima County medical examiner, said after reviewing the report that the trajectories it describes could be consistent with someone being shot and falling, with subsequent shots hitting the prone body. But he said that there could be other interpretations, and that without seeing photographs, and without knowing the examiners or the quality of their work, he couldn’t draw any conclusions.
Absalon Madrigal Godinez, the lead examiner, hadn’t replied by deadline to email requests for an interview.
Parra, reached by phone in Hermosillo, Sonora, where he was seeking ballistics reports, said that Elena Rodriguez’s family feels frustrated “because it seems like there hasn’t been any collaboration at all between U.S. and Mexican authorities on this.”
The story continues:
In this incident, agents were chasing two men they believed had carried bundles of drugs over the fence and were trying to escape back into Mexico. As the men climbed the fence, rocks were hurled at police and Border Patrol agents, according to police reports. That’s when an agent standing near the fence opened fire, the reports said.
At the spot where Elena Rodriguez’s body was found, the border fence runs along a bluff. The bottom of the fence is about 25 feet above street level, where the boy would have been standing. The top of the fence is another 18 feet above that.
According to Nogales police, whoever was throwing rocks was flinging them over the fence, not through the 3.5 inch gaps between the metal poles. Given the arc that a rock would have to travel to pass over the fence from the street below, it would be nearly impossible for the projectile to hit someone right next to the fence, where the agent would have had to have stood to fire down at the youth through the fence’s metal bars.