Feds close probes into 2 Arizona border shootings

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- Federal authorities announced Friday that they won't pursue criminal charges against U.S. Border Patrol agents involved in separate 2011 fatal shootings in southern Arizona.

Justice Department officials in Washington said the decisions were "based on the facts developed during an independent and comprehensive investigation" into both incidents that involved rocks being thrown at agents at the international boundary fence separating the United States from Mexico.

Officials said in a statement that the loss of life "is regrettable," but the facts don't support federal prosecution for criminal civil rights or other federal criminal charges in either case.

Carlos LaMadrid, 19, was shot in Douglas on March 21, 2011, and died hours later at a hospital during surgery.

Douglas police said LaMadrid was seen loading bundles of drugs into a vehicle and failed to stop when pursued by officers.

LaMadrid jumped out of the vehicle, ran to the international fence and climbed a ladder to the top where police said another man was throwing brick-sized rocks at the Border Patrol agent.

Federal authorities said their investigation showed LaMadrid "was in the line of fire between the rock-throwing male and the agent" when he was struck by four bullets."

Investigators recovered several large rocks at the scene, including one that shattered the windshield of the vehicle the agent was ducking behind when he fired five shots. They ruled that the agent acted in self-defense.

In the other incident, 17-year-old Ramses Barron-Torres was fatally shot at the international boundary fence in Nogales in the early-morning hours of Jan. 5, 2011.

Border agents responded to reports that drugs were being moved across the border.

They said Barron-Torres and three other people on the Mexico side of the border fence were throwing rocks at two agents while another person was carrying a bundle of suspected narcotics.

The agents told the people in Spanish to stop throwing rocks, but said Barron-Torres continued to do so, and he was shot once.

Justice Department officials said there was insufficient evidence to disprove the agent's claim that he shot Barron-Torres in self-defense.

They also said the teen was on the Mexico side of the border when he was shot so they lack jurisdiction to prosecute the agent under the federal criminal civil rights statute.

There was no immediate response Friday from either of the victims' families.