Native Americans from Arizona demand that Border Patrol agents be prosecuted for fatal shooting

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A new border wall stretches along the landscape near Sasabe, Ariz., on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

The Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona on Friday blasted the decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to prosecute Border Patrol agents who shot and killed a member of the tribe after they were summoned by tribal police.

Body camera footage released in June by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows that the agents who fatally shot Raymond Mattia were concerned the 58-year-old may have been carrying a handgun. But no firearm was found.

The tribe’s executive office called the decision not to file charges “a travesty of justice.”

“There are countless questions left unanswered by this decision. As a result, we cannot and will not accept the U.S. Attorney’s decision,” said a statement signed by Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Verlon M. Jose and Vice Chairwoman Carla L. Johnson.

The statement said the tribe may request Congressional inquiries into Mattia’s death. Mattia was killed the night of May 18 outside a home in the reservation’s Menagers Dam community near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement this week that its employees met with Mattia’s family and their attorneys in Sells on Sept. 19 to explain the decision.

“The agents’ use of force under the facts and circumstances presented in this case does not rise to the level of a federal criminal civil rights violation or a criminal violation assimilated under Arizona law,” the office concluded.

“We stand by our conclusion, and we hear the Chairman’s frustration,” the statement added.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond Friday to emails requesting comment.

The shooting occurred after Border Patrol agents were called to the area by the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department for help responding to a report of shots fired.

Body camera footage shows Mattia throwing a sheathed machete at the foot of a tribal officer and then holding out his arm. After Mattia is shot and on the ground, an agent declares: “He’s still got a gun in his hand.”

CBP said earlier that the three Border Patrol agents who opened fire and at least seven others at the scene were wearing body cameras and activated them during the shooting.

The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Mattia had nine gunshot wounds. 

Source: AZ Central

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