A Nogales, Sonora, man suing the federal government testified he was shot by a Border Patrol agent at close range while trying to find a place to hide to dodge the horse reins the agent was using to hit him.
Jesús Castro Romo says in his lawsuit that the agent used excessive force or was negligent when he shot him in his lower back, close to the waist. The trial before U.S. District Judge James A. Soto is expected to continue through the week.
“Don’t be hitting me. I don’t have anything,” Castro Romo said he kept telling the agent, who he said responded with expletives. Romo said the agent also said he’d continue hitting him as long as he wanted to.
That’s when Catro Romo said he told agent Abel Canales that if he hit him again, he would run toward Mexico.
A complaint Castro Romo’s attorney, William Risner, filed in January 2012 says the Border Patrol agent was on horseback when he intercepted a group of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States west of Nogales on Nov. 16, 2010. The agent, identified at trial as Canales, repeatedly struck Romo over the head with the reins after Castro Romo surrendered.
Romo then fled because he could no longer take the pain, the documents say. The agent then shot Romo, who collapsed to the desert floor, according to the complaint.
But the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Castro Romo was shot as result of his own actions and failure to comply with law enforcement. Canales has said Castro Romo threatened him with a rock and he feared for his life.
While Risner painted a picture of a hard-working family man who had his first job when he was 14 years old, assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pestal pointed out that Castro Romo had tried to cross into the country more than a dozen times and had been formally deported in 2007.
One of the border crossers identified him as the guide, but Castro Romo said he was helping keep the group together in exchange for the $1,000 crossing fee.
Romo seeks unspecified monetary damages from the government for the shooting, which greatly impaired his ability to walk because the bullet struck his spine.
Dwight Steward, an economist hired by Castro Romo, calculated that the total amount in past and future earnings and household services is $266,000, based in part on a Mexican census and his employment history.
Castro Romo, who has a sixth- grade education, had a dump-trucking business before he was shot. Castro Romo said he has been unable to drive since the incident.
After he spent almost four months in detention serving a sentence for illegal re-entry after a deportation, Castro Soto went back to Nogales, Sonora, in 2011 and tried to drive the dump truck, but his legs didn’t respond.
“I came upon a stoplight and I wanted to step on the brakes but my legs weren’t responding,” he said through an interpreter. “I came within a couple of feet from a compact car with a lady and a child. I almost hit them.”
He tried getting jobs in a supermarket and a hardware store, but due to his injuries he wasn’t able to stand or walk for longs periods of time.
His wife and three government witnesses are expected to testify today.