SAN DIEGO — A federal judge has tentatively approved a settlement for the United States government to pay $1 million to
the children of a Mexican man who died after being detained by federal border
officers who beat and shot him with a stun gun while he was handcuffed.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego federal court, was
entering its seventh year in court, and an appeal was pending in the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Louisa Porter approved the settlement.
Anastasio Hernandez Rojas' five children, who were born in the U.S., will split the $1 million, with a quarter of it going to attorney fees and
costs following the final approval of the agreement.
“We were not satisfied with the amount, but we agreed to it because the other side had extended the case for more than six years,” Eugene Iredale, the family’s attorney, told the Northern California Record. “But life is finite and these children needed to move forward from this.”
Rojas, 42, was crossing the border with his brother on
May 28, 2010, when they were caught entering the U.S. illegally near San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing with Tijuana, Mexico, according to news reports.
He later died after a confrontation with authorities. Bystanders recorded the exchange between border patrol agents and
Rojas due to alleged unnecessary forced agents used. An autopsy found
that several factors contributed to his death by heart attack, including
methamphetamine intoxication, heart disease, stun gun shocks, physical exertion
Iredale said there has been one formal change in the
way border patrol agents handle immigrants. Agents are not
allowed to use a stun gun more than three times on a person when necessary.
“It’s a small change,” Iredale said. “It is my hope
that, because of increased public awareness, there will also be an increase in
the level of compassion for people.”
A new pilot program that arose out of this and other
cases is the use of body worn cameras by border patrol agents, Iredale said.
“The border patrol union is resisting with all of its
might, but the response to police officers wearing them have been increasingly
good," he said. "They result in a diminished level of complaints and an increased level of