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U.S. Government Drops Case Against Border Patrol Agent In Arizona

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez picture
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Taide Elena holds a portrait of her dead grandson, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, in 2012.

The United States has abandoned its attempt to prosecute a Border Patrol agent who killed a teenager by firing through the Arizona border fence into Mexico. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a motion in federal court Thursday that brings to an end the six-year case of Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz.

It was the government’s second attempt. A jury deadlocked  on a second-degree murder charge in April, and then in November, the jury in a new case deadlocked on the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. A voluntary manslaughter charge, a more severe charge, was left undecided.

Prosecutors were supposed to decide next week whether they would pursue that conviction. The new court filing says Swartz is constitutionally protected from a retrial due to a double jeopardy clause. He’s been on paid administrative leave from the Border Patrol.

Last March the agency said Swartz had been assigned to the San Diego Sector. When he shot 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, he'd been assigned to the Tucson Sector.

Officials there haven’t said whether he’ll return to patrolling the border or where.

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Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.