SAN DIEGO (AP) — A man who was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent threw large rocks at the agent, including one about the size of a basketball, investigators said Wednesday.
The man, a 41-year-old Mexican citizen suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, began throwing fist-sized rocks at the agent from a hillside perch, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said. The rocks became larger, and one of the bigger pieces hit the agent in the head.
The sheriff's department said the agent fired his gun at least twice Tuesday, fearing he might be killed or incapacitated if he was hit again in the head. The agent tried to revive the man, Jesus Flores-Cruz, who had two gunshot wounds and died at the scene.
The Sheriff's Department released the identity of Flores-Cruz on Wednesday night, saying his identity was confirmed by a fingerprint match from a 1996 arrest by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
The agent, whose name was not disclosed, was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released.
The episode in a remote, mountainous area about 4 miles east of San Diego's Otay Mesa border crossing comes amid debate about whether the Border Patrol should respond to rock attacks with lethal force.
Under current policy, agents can use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that their lives or the lives of others are in danger. The Border Patrol has long maintained rocks can be lethal weapons.
The incident began when two agents on foot separated Tuesday morning to arrest two people who were suspected of crossing the border illegally from Mexico, according to the sheriff's department, which is leading the investigation.
One agent saw Flores-Cruz and ordered him to stop in English and Spanish, then chased him down a ravine and up a hill, where the shooting occurred, the department said. Sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said the account is based on the agent's statement and that there were no other surviving eyewitnesses.
The Border Patrol said in a statement Tuesday that the agent feared for his life and that two people in the country illegally were arrested. Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, said prosecutors decided against charging them with a crime.