The family of a young man shot in the back and killed by a Border Patrol agent in March following a high-speed chase has until Sunday to remove a shrine they put up at the border fence in Douglas.
The Border Patrol sent a letter this week to Guadalupe Guer-rero, informing her that the shrine in honor of her son, Carlos Lamadrid, 19, will be destroyed if it isn't removed because construction on a 6-mile border fence replacement project begins Wednesday.
The Border Patrol previously sent a letter asking them to remove the shrine in June, said agency spokesman Mario Escalante.
"Because these items have been placed on federal government property, it is well within CBP's authority to remove them if they remain in the area," the letter says.
"While we respect your efforts to remember your family member, the completion of this project is essential to our operations."
Removing the unauthorized shrine is necessary to keep agents safe within an already dangerous enforcement zone, Escalante said.
The shrine, located along the dirt border road at the foot of the fence about 1.5 miles east of the Douglas Port of Entry, features a large white cross with a picture of Lamadrid on it. There are flowers and candles at the base of the cross and several small statutes of angels within a heart-shaped rock outline.
The notification has upset the Lamadrid family, which has filed paperwork for a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. government seeking $50 million in damages. The federal investigation of the fatal shooting is ongoing.
The family received the Border Patrol's letter on Wednesday from its attorney and hasn't yet decided what to do with the shrine, Guerrero said.
"I don't know what to do," said Guerrero, through tears. "It doesn't seem fair."
A U.S. citizen, Lamadrid graduated from Douglas High School in 2009 and was enrolled at Cochise College.
The family may hold a vigil Sunday at the shrine, and hopes to put the cross back when the fence construction project is finished. They know they'll have to move it but hope to keep it somewhere nearby, Guerrero said.
Lamadrid's life came to an end where the shrine is located on March 21 following a high-speed police chase.
The pursuit began about midnight when Douglas police received an anonymous tip that a truck driven by Lamadrid had been loaded with bundles of marijuana, a report from Douglas police shows. Lamadrid sped away toward the border.
He collided with an agent in an SUV near the border, then jumped out of his truck and ran toward the border fence, the report says.
As he climbed a ladder up the border fence, other men in Mexico threw rocks at the agent, just missing him but hitting the SUV's windshield.
After a man on the Mexican side of the border grabbed Lamadrid's wrist to try to help him up the ladder faster, an agent fired three rounds at Lamadrid, who tumbled off the ladder and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Officers found 48 pounds of marijuana in the teen's truck.
The Cochise County Sheriff's Office turned over its completed investigation to the Cochise County Attorney's Office this summer but is waiting to make a decision about charges until the federal government completes its inquiry, said Doyle Johnstun, chief criminal deputy county attorney.
"We are kind of treading water to see what the federal investigation may turn up," Johnstun said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has not provided any information about that investigation to Bill Risner, the Tucson attorney representing the Lamadrid family.
"I'm under the impression that they are investigating the appropriateness of the Border Patrol agent shooting him," Risner said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment because the investigation is ongoing, said agency spokesman Manny Tarango.
"Mr. Lamadrid was not a rock thrower and not responsible for any damage to the Border Patrol vehicle," Risner wrote in a notice of claim filed on June 9 on behalf of Guerrero and the teen's father, Jesus Carlos Lamadrid.
"Instead, he simply climbed the fence in an effort to avoid arrest. He was shot four times in the back as he neared the top of the fence. His death was not justified. He was unarmed. He was not a threat of any kind to the unknown Border Patrol agent."
The Border Patrol agent, who has not been identified, remains on active duty, Escalante said.
The FBI has also opened an assault on a federal agent investigation. The ongoing nature of that inquiry was cited by the agency for not commenting about it, said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Giannola.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org