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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Border Patrol Victim|Awarded $498,000

TUCSON (CN) - A Mexican citizen deserves $498,000 to pay for spinal surgery, years of psychiatric treatment and pain and suffering from being shot by a Border Patrol agent who later served time in prison for accepting a bribe, a federal judge ruled.

Jesus Castro Romo told the Federal Court in Tucson that he crossed the border on Nov. 16, 2010, just west of Nogales, Ariz., with a group. They soon ran into Border Patrol Agents Abel Canales and Tyrell Moss, who were patrolling on horseback. Castro said Canales pursued him as he fled on foot.

According to U.S. District Judge James Soto, who presided over a five-day bench trial of Castro's civil claims against the federal government in July 2014, those are the only facts on which Castro and the government could agree.

Castro told the court that after Canales caught up with him, the agent said, "Go back, you son of a bitch," and, "Run, run, you son of a bitch. Run over to where the rest of the people are."

Castro said he had to stop briefly because of a leg cramp, and Canales bumped into him with his horse and hit him with the reins, cursing at him.

Castro said he ran toward Mexico when Canales continued to hit him with the reins, at which point Canales said, "Ahora se va a chingar a tu madre" ("Now you're going to get it, motherfucker"), and shot Castro "in his left flank."

Canales, however, told the court that Castro ignored his commands and picked up a rock "approximately six inches in diameter" and "cocked his right arm into a throwing motion and threatened Canales verbally," leaving the agent no choice but to shoot.

After finding that Castro was only 10 percent responsible for his injuries, Soto said he should be awarded $497,943 in damages.

Noting that "Canales' description of the event has evolved," Judge Soto pointed out in his findings of fact on Feb. 6 that in an interview with supervisors just after the incident, "Canales stated unequivocally that he did not see Castro pick up a rock and could not even see his hand."

However, during the trial Canales said that Castro had picked up a rock and that he had "waited for Castro to cock his right arm back into a throwing motion before firing his weapon," Soto wrote.

Such discrepancies added to Canales' credibility problem, according to Soto.

Canales was sentenced to 8 months in federal prison in 2013 for accepting a bribe three years earlier. Court documents show that Canales pleaded guilty in August 2012, admitting he had allowed smugglers to pass through a checkpoint on Interstate 19 in exchange for a bribe.

"The close connection between the conviction for accepting a bribe as a public official and the actions in this case - specifically the fact that both actions involve his actions as a Border Patrol Agent and his truthfulness - along with Canales' purported inability to remember the timing of his illegal actions contribute to this court's finding that Canales' testimony regarding the shooting is not credible," Soto wrote.

Based on the testimony of several doctors, Soto found that Castro was likely to suffer mental and physical issues related to the incident for years to come, including spinal surgery, expensive medications, and monthly psychiatric treatment for at least 15 years.

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