Family of Mexican man shot at border awarded $350,000
March 5, 2009, 3:19PM
TUCSON, Ariz. — A federal judge has awarded $350,000 to the family of a Mexican man who was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent during a June 2003 confrontation in southern Arizona, finding that deadly force was not justified.
In a civil lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Raner Collins ordered the U.S. government to pay the family of 22-year-old Ricardo Olivares Martinez of Agua Prieta, Mexico, for Agent Cesar Cervantes' use of excessive force.
Collins said in his ruling Wednesday that he would have awarded the family $1 million. But he reduced the award by 65 percent because of shared fault. The judge found that the illegal immigrant was fleeing Cervantes and placed the agent "in the scenario where he could misapprehend the situation."
The shooting occurred after Border Patrol agents found a group of illegal immigrants near the port of entry in Douglas, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson.
The group scattered, with Olivares running back to a border fence and trying to jump over it into Mexico.
Authorities contended that Olivares turned to confront Cervantes and began throwing rocks at him. Cervantes said he ordered Olivares to stop and shot him when he did not. Cervantes has said that he felt his life was in danger.
The FBI conducted a civil-rights investigation but no charges were filed against Cervantes, and the agency dropped its investigation in October 2003.
Collins heard testimony last fall.
The judge said the evidence showed that in a period of no longer than seven seconds, Olivares ran from the border fence "to the desert across the road where he was shot.
"In this period of time, the court cannot find that the decedent was able to make it across the road, pick up a rock or two, was warned multiple times to drop the rock while the agent was drawing his weapon, cocked the rock (or rocks) and then was fired upon" by the agent as a last option, the judge wrote.
The U.S. attorney's office is reviewing the judge's decision in the case, U.S. attorney's spokeswoman Sandy Raynor said today.
Border Patrol spokesman Omar Candelaria said Cervantes is not working in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, which covers most of southern Arizona, but Candelaria did not say whether the agent was still employed by the Border Patrol.