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Border agent's murder trial delayed for 5th time

BP agent Lonnie Ray Swartz may face jury trial in June

The trial of Lonnie Ray Swartz, a Nogales-area Border Patrol agent accused of second degree murder for the 2012 cross-border shooting of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, has been delayed for the fifth time. 

Originally set to begin at the end of February, the trial will be delayed until June 19 on order from U.S. District Judge Raner Collins, who agreed this week to a request to postpone made by Swartz's lawyer. 

The trial was originally slated for November 2015, just weeks after the agent pleaded not guilty. However, the trial was repeatedly delayed throughout 2016. 

Swartz was indicted by a federal grand jury for second degree murder, alleging he aimed his semi-automatic pistol through the border fence and shot at Rodriguez, hitting him nearly a dozen times, with most of the bullets striking the boy in the back. The indictment alleges Swartz acted "with malice aforethought" when unholstered his weapon and fired through the fence, killing the teen.

Border Patrol officials said that Swartz fired into Mexico in response to a hail of rocks aimed at agents and a Nogales police officer, who were attempting to stop a group of drug smugglers near the fence dividing the twin cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora. 

Swartz's attorney, Sean Chapman, filed the request on January 27 and asked that the trial be delayed because federal prosecutors had estimated that the trial would last four to six weeks. 

Federal prosecutors did not oppose the motion. 

Meanwhile, lawyers for Swartz have pressed to have the charges dismissed, arguing that the federal government lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute the Border Patrol agent for firing over the border. 

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Collins has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss. 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A procession marking the third anniversary of the Oct. 10, 2012, death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez ends at the spot where the teenager died after being hit approximately 10 times by gunfire from a U.S. Border Patrol agent.