A judge in California tentatively approved a $1 million settlement for the children of an illegal immigrant killed by Border Patrol agents in 2010.
Six years ago, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas and his brother were caught by Border Patrol agents trying to cross into the United States near Otay Mesa, California. According to the lawsuit, Rojas was thrown against the wall by a federal officer and kicked into a standing spread-eagle position. The blow loosened a set of metal pins Rojas had in his ankle from an accident.
On the way back to the border, a struggle ensued. The Border Patrol agents transporting the brothers claimed that Rojas was lashing out with his feet and “resisting” restraint. He was reportedly grabbed from behind, hit with batons, and held stationary while an agent knelt on his back.
But Rojas kept kicking, according to authorities.
A backup officer fired his Taser at the immigrant as he was being held down on the ground by multiple officers. Rojas lost consciousness and died at a hospital two days later.
A video taken of Rojas’ tasing. Viewer discretion is advised. Footage uploaded by KPBS.
A story The Times of San Diego ran on the killing noted that no charges will be filed against any of the agents involved. An autopsy performed after Rojas’ death showed he’d suffered a massive heart attack. The Justice Department stated that “several factors contributed to the fatal heart attack, and that the victim wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been under the influence of methamphetamine.”
The Justice Department closed the Rojas investigation in late 2015. In a press release, they listed “acute methamphetamine intoxication, pre-existing heart disease, the level of physical exertion during the struggle, [and] the electro-shocks from the Taser and positional restraints” as “contributory factors” in his death.
The opinion of the Department is that there is insufficient evidence to disprove any wrongdoing on the part of Border Patrol Agents. Nevertheless, the San Diego Coroner’s Office had ruled Rojas’ death a homicide, recording that he had multiple broken teeth, broken ribs, a damaged spine, and bruising across the upper and lower parts of his body. Small protests broke out in California after the Justice Department refused to consider charges against the perpetrators.
While the United States Government didn’t admit any wrongdoing, it did settle for $1 million. The payment is to be distributed among Rojas’ five children, with a quarter of the award going toward attorney costs and fees.
Since minors are involved in the case, the settlement must be approved by a federal judge before it can become finalized. The San Diego Tribune gave a date of March 2nd for the hearing.