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The U.S. Border Patrol embraces an unlawful policy that allows agents who have rocks thrown at them to respond with deadly force, the widow and children of a Mexican national killed in a border-crossing scuffle claim in federal court.

Maria Del Socorro Quintero Perez and her two children are suing Border Patrolmen Dorian Diaz and Chad Nelson, along with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Thomas Winkowski, former Acting Commissioner David Aguilar, former Commissioner Alan Bersin, former Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAlleenan, Chief of Border Patrol Michael Fisher, Chief Patrol Agent Paul Beeson, former Acting Chief Patrol Agent Richard Barlow, and Acting Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Rodney Scott over the death of their husband and father, Jesus Alfredo Yanez Reyes.

According to the complaint, Diaz killed Yanez exactly a year ago on June 21, 2011. After a scuffle as Reyes was attempting to cross the border into San Diego with another individual when they encountered Diaz and Nelson and fled. The man with Yanez, Jose Ibarra-Murrieta, was taken to the ground by Nelson on a dirt road along the border fence. Yanez, meanwhile, sought refuge in a tree south of the main fence.

From the tree, he is alleged to have thrown two rocks “omewhere between the size of a golf ball and a baseball,” missing both times. He then threw a board studded with nails. This struck Nelson in the head, prompting his partner Diaz to draw his gun and, without “a single additional word,” shoot Yanez, fatally wounding him.

Quintero disputes the official report, noting that the Border Patrol story has varied considerably, at one time placing a third, non-existent individual with the pair attempting to cross, and at another time reporting to Fox News Latino that the two men attacked agents with a concrete slab. She argues that the agency’s policy allowing agents to treat thrown rocks as “deadly force” entices authorities in the field to report incidents of rocks being thrown that may never have taken place.

Murrieta, for his part, says that from Yanez’s vantage point in the tree there would have been no way for him to get a clear shot at officers, even if he had thrown any projectiles. However, Murrieta says, no rocks or boards were ever thrown, and the only item Yanez had in his hand when he was shot was the cell phone he was using to video tape agents beating Murrieta after he had already been subdued and was lying on the ground.

Quintero says that regardless of which version of the story is correct, agents could have used non-lethal force to effect the capture of both men.

The complaint further says that although the “rocking policy” used by the Border Patrol has resulted in the death of at least 13 Mexican nationals over the years, only one police officer in the United States has been killed by a thrown rock in recorded history, and that incident occurred in 1942.

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