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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Whittles Border Agent’s Video Claims

(CN) - A federal judge in San Diego dismissed all but two of the claims brought by a Border Patrol agent who said government employees altered a video of him shooting and killing an immigrant smuggler in self defense. He said the "enhanced" video, which made him look bad, was widely circulated on the Internet and aired on television shows in Mexico and the United States, making his family the target of death threats and ridicule.

Arturo Lorenzo said he fired the fatal shot when an illegal immigrant smuggler picked up a large rock and prepared to throw it at him. The incident near Calexico, Calif., was captured on video by a remote surveillance camera.

Lorenzo said unknown employees of the Customs and Border Protection Agency "enhanced" the video by adding his name and rank, and the seal of the Department of Homeland Security. They then released it outside the agency, causing it to get picked up by Internet blogs and TV shows, including "Hannity's America" and "Geraldo at Large," Lorenzo claimed.

He said his family was forced to relocate to Florida for safety reasons and, as a result, his wife lost her lucrative insurance business.

Lorenzo and his family filed claims for invasion of privacy, negligent supervision and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw dismissed all but Lorenzo's claim for Privacy Act violations and the family's emotional distress claim.

Sabraw said Lorenzo's claims for false light invasion of privacy and negligent supervision are barred by sovereign immunity, while the coverage of a newsworthy border shooting failed to qualify as public disclosure of private facts or intrusion into private affairs.

The judge also dismissed the Privacy Act claim of Lorenzo's wife, Fabiola, saying she lacks standing to sue over disclosures about her husband.

But the emotional distress claim survived because, unlike the false light claim, it isn't barred by the libel and slander exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, Sabraw ruled.

Lorenzo's Privacy Act claim also survived, because it wasn't challenged in the government's motion to dismiss.

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