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José Antonio Elena Rodriguez

Marchers call for justice in teen's cross-border shooting death

U.S. agents fired across int'l line as rocks were thrown

Six months after the shooting of Mexican teenager José Antonio Elena Rodriguez by U.S. border agents, his family and community activists in Arizona are frustrated and fear that the investigation into his death is at a standstill.

More than 100 protesters walked from Nogales, Ariz. through the port of entry and to the pock-marked building just yards from the border where on Oct. 10, 2012, the 16-year-old Rodriguez was shot by two border agents firing through the metal fence.

The march was sponsored by several humanitarian groups, including Derechos Humanos, No More Deaths, Yo Soy 132 Nogales, Kino Border Initiative, and Samaritanos from Green Valley and Tucson.

Protestors marched behind a truck with speakers that played a corrido written about the death of the Mexican teen. They gathered on Calle Internacional, where Rev. Ricardo Machuca Hernåndez led a prayer and candles were lit near the small shine that marks where Rodriguez fell.

Information on the shooting, including the ballistics report and Rodriguez's autopsy, has been readily available from Mexican agencies, said Hannah Hafter, the abuse documentation coordinator with No More Deaths. But little has been said by U.S. authorities.

"The U.S. side has been completely silent," she said.

"We demand justice, we demand a real change," said Helena Lopez, from Tucson, who came to support the effort.

Standing on the bluff above, about 30 supporters watched from the Arizona side and pushed signs of support for the group's effort through the fence.

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"We cannot endure this," said José Prince. Shaking his head slowly after he placed a flower near the shine for Rodriguez, he said: "If they can just shoot people, nobody is safe."

The details from that night remain murky.

U.S. officials have said that Rodriguez, along with other men, threw rocks at border agents as they attempted to investigate a drug smuggling report on the U.S. side.

Isidro Alvarado, a 36-year-old native of Nogales, disputes that claim, saying during a Wednesday press conference in Nogales, Sonora, that Rodriguez was hit while walking down the street. The Arizona Daily Star reported that two men rushed past Alvarado moments before Rodriguez was shot.

The incident began when several agents responded to a call that drug smugglers were operating near the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. The agents watched as two men abandoned a load of narcotics and retreated over the fence.

As border agents attempted to investigate along with two Nogales police officers, they were bombarded with rocks. A police dog with the NPD officers was hit as they were pelted with rocks and went for cover, officials said.

As some point, two unidentified border agents walked up to the fence and fired their weapons, sending a dozen rounds into Mexico from a point at least 10 feet above Calle Internacional. A surveillance camera mounted on the border fence may have recorded the incident, but the FBI has declined to release any video of the shooting.

An autopsy report released in February by Mexican authorities said that the Mexican teen was hit by a salvo of bullets, and all but one hit him in the back. According to reporting by the Nogales International, Rodriguez may have been shot while on the ground, or the rapid succession of gunfire may have led to some rounds hitting as Rodriguez fell from the first shot.

Other border shootings also remain unsolved.

Ramses Barron Torres was shot by a U.S. border agent in Jan. 2011 and the case remains open more than two years later. In December, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed 19-year-old Margarito Lopez Morelos.

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Also in December, a border agent wounded a man southwest of Gila Bend. Officials released little information on that incident.

The FBI declined to comment on the investigations, saying that there's no specific timetable for results.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A girl places candles on a shrine for Jose Rodriguez on Wednesday as marchers called for justice on the spot where the Mexican teen was shot to death by U.S. agents firing across the border with Mexico.