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Case Name: Maria Del Socorro Quintero Perez, et al. v. United States of America, et al.

Docket No.: 3:13-cv-01417

type:Civil Rights

filed:June 17, 2013

court:U.S. District Court, Southern District of California

On June 21, 2011, a United States Border Patrol agent shot and killed Jesus Alfredo Yañez Reyes (“Mr. Yañez”), an unarmed Mexican national.  At the time of the shooting, Mr. Yañez was in a tree near the U.S./Mexico border, watching as two Border Patrol agents assaulted another Mexican national who had attempted to cross the border with Mr. Yañez.  The killing occurred near San Diego, California along the border fence area that abuts the Castillo neighborhood of Ciudad Tijuana. 

The agents involved in the shooting defended their use of deadly force by claiming that Mr. Yañez was throwing rocks at the time of the shooting.  Plaintiffs allege that the use of such force in these circumstances is unconstitutionally excessive and pursuant to a Border Patrol policy of treating rock-throwing as per se lethal force to which agents could respond with fatal gunfire.  Plaintiffs further allege that this so-called Rocking Policy had the imprimatur of the highest ranking government officials. 

Cases like this have caused the government to commission a report by the well-respected Police Executive Research Forum (“PERF”), a report that ultimately advised against agents taking such aggressive tactics when several non-lethal alternatives are still available.  In light of PERF's findings, the Border Patrol has reexamined and clarified its policy of using deadly force against alleged rock-throwers.  That policy now, for the first time, requires border patrol agents who allegedly encounter rock-throwing to respond with less than lethal force whenever they can do so safely. Unfortunately for Mr. Yañez and his family, that change in policy came three years too late.

Before the District Court

Mr. Yañez’s widow and children filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California 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. Yañez’s constitutional rights and violating international human rights norms.

The defendants in the case have filed a motion to dismiss on several grounds including sovereign immunity and qualified immunity. The briefing on the motion is complete and the parties are awaiting a decision from the district court. 

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