A Border Patrol agent, parked along the levee overlooking the Tijuana River. The Border Patrol has come under fire for shooting an immigrant who was throwing rocks. (UPI Photo/Earl Cryer). | License Photo
SAN DIEGO, June 23 (UPI) -- The fatal shooting of an illegal Mexican immigrant in the head for throwing rocks at a U.S. Border Patrol agent was justified, U.S. authorities said.
A border patrol officer who killed 40-year-old Jose Yanez Reyes at the San Diego border with Tijuana, Mexico, acted in self-defense, the authorities said, arguing that rock attacks have resulted in disabling injuries to agents.
"Agents don't shoot their weapon unless they fear for their lives or the lives of their partners or innocent third persons," Justin De La Torre, an acting assistant chief patrol agent in San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times.
But the Mexican government and immigrant-rights groups, who have long protested what they consider excessive tactics by Border Patrol agents, condemned the Tuesday evening shooting, which knocked Reyes off a border fence and back into Mexico.
"We simply cannot allow our law-enforcement agents to use lethal force when confronted with rock throwers," said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, told the newspaper.
Ricardo Valladares, 27, a Tijuana body-shop painter, said the agents had a right to defend themselves, but not lethally.
"Obviously, they have to retaliate," he said. "But to kill him for throwing a rock? Why don't [agents] just use rubber bullets?"
The FBI, San Diego police and Mexican authorities are investigating.