The Guns of Nogales

Nogales is a city in both America and Mexico, cut in half by a border fence.  The population of the Mexican side has been growing rapidly, and so has violent crime.  Back in July, a gun battle between drug gangs left 21 dead in Mexico, adding to hundreds of murders each year in the once-peaceful town.  The U.S. government has issued travel advisories for the area. 

Police and Border Patrol agents have been trying to keep things under control on the Arizona side of the fence.  In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Border Patrol was trying to arrest a group of drug smugglers when Mexican teenagers began throwing rocks at them.  This sort of thing happens frequently along the border, although the U.S. media have little interest in reporting it.  Sometimes the Border Patrol is showered with bullets and firebombs instead of rocks.

On this particular occasion, one of the Mexican kids, 17-year-old Ramses Barron, tried to climb over the border fence, and was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent.  Barron also hit his head on a rock after falling from the fence.  There are conflicting reports about whether the gunshot or blow to the head killed him.  The FBI is investigating the incident, treating it as an AFO, or “assault on a federal officer.” 

A similar incident occurred in El Paso, Texas back in June, when a 15-year-old boy was shot while throwing rocks at Border Patrol agents.

The Border Patrol has justified its actions during these incidents by saying its agents have a responsibility to defend themselves from attack.  In the Nogales shooting, they were dealing with drug smugglers who could easily have produced weapons during the confusion of the rock assault, not to mention the fact that getting creamed by a rock can be painful, or even fatal.

There was anger in Mexico over the earlier shooting incident, and there will be anger over this one, especially if the FBI clears the agent involved.  I would strongly suggest Mexican boys refrain from throwing rocks at armed Border Patrol agents and stop trying to climb the border fence.  Abandoning the defense of our border in an area torn by gang violence, or expecting our agents to stand quietly and tolerate a shower of missiles, are not options on the table.