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DoJ: No prosecution of border agent in shooting death of Mexican teen

AP file

Friends and relatives of Sergio Hernandez Guereca, 15, carry his coffin before his burial in the northern border city of Juarez, Mexico, June 10, 2010.

The federal government will not pursue charges against a U.S. border patrol agent who shot and killed a 15-year-old Mexican national two years ago, the Justice Department said on Friday.

The shooting of Sergio Hernandez Guereca took place in a spillway of the Rio Grande along the border on June 7, 2010, as the agent was dodging rocks thrown at him while he was trying to detain a suspected smuggler.

The death of Hernandez Guereca, who was on the Mexico side of the border when he was shot, sparked protest from rights groups and the family filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

The Mexican government condemned the shooting and called for a swift response. Mexican President Felipe Calderon called on Washington "to investigate fully what happened and punish those responsible."

Investigators say they interviewed more than 25 witnesses, analyzed videos, listened to 911 recordings and law enforcement radio traffic, reviewed border patrol agent training and use-of-force materials, and reviewed the officer's history.

'Reasonable use of force'
They concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the Customs and Border Patrol agent for homicide. The agent has never been identified.

Instead, a Justice Department statement says, what they found indicated "that the agent's actions constituted a reasonable use of force or would constitute an act of self-defense in response to the threat created by a group of smugglers hurling rocks at the agent and his detainee."

They also lacked evidence to prove that "the CBP agent acted willfully and with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids," which would be required to prove a civil rights violation. The Justice Department said that an "accident, mistake, misperception, negligence and bad judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation."

"The U.S. government regrets the loss of life in this matter," the Justice Department said.

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