Case Name: Maria Fernanda Rico Andrade v. United States of America, et al.
Docket No.: 2:15-cv-00103
filed:February 27, 2015
court:U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas
On November 3, 2011, two United States Border Patrol agents shot and killed Gerardo Lozano Rico (“Mr. Lozano”), an unarmed Mexican national, as he was driving on a rural stretch of road in San Patricio County, Texas. At the time of the shooting, the two agents had initiated a traffic stop on Mr. Lozano's vehicle and were attempting to apprehend fleeing passengers. After one agent shattered the driver's side window with his baton, Mr. Lozano started to drive away. The two agents responded by firing approximately 15 rounds at the vehicle, killing Mr. Lozano.
The agents involved in the shooting defended their use of deadly force by claiming that Mr. Lozano's vehicle was coming in their direction. The complaint alleges that the use of such force in these circumstances is unconstitutionally excessive and pursuant to a pattern and practice of border patrol agents intentionally putting themselves into the exit path of vehicles, thereby exposing themselves to additional risk and creating justification for the use of deadly force. The complaint further alleges that the bullet trajectories and gunshot wounds reveal that any fatal shots fired by the agents were from the side or from the rear, when any arguable threat posed by the vehicle had already passed.
This case exposes the high ranking government officials who not only knew of and acquiesced in the unlawful pattern and practice of using deadly force in the agents' circumstances, but also intentionally prevented the public from ever knowing of its existence. This practice was first highlighted in a government-commissioned independent report that found Border Patrol agents justified their use of deadly force at least 15 times pursuant to this “Vehicle Policy." The report further advised that immediate training and policy changes were needed to prevent agents from taking such aggressive tactics in the future. Although originally hidden from the public, the report was finally released only after many of those high ranking officials resigned.
Before the District Court
In February 2015, Mr. Lozano's mother filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against, among others, the two Border Patrol agents involved in the shooting, the government officials responsible for supervising the border agents, and the United States government, for violating Mr. Lozano's constitutional rights and violating international human rights norms.