A San Diego federal court ruling clears the way for a family’s civil lawsuit alleging excessive force was used by U.S. Border Patrol agents and supervisors in the death of a man while in custody.
Video shows Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, 42, surrounded by over a dozen federal officials on May 28, 2010 moments before his death.
The witness cell phone video is central to the civil lawsuit that claims Rojas was beaten and shot with a Taser while his hands were handcuffed behind his back and he was face-down on the ground.
In pretrial depositions, two defendants recalled hearing Rojas scream “ayuda me” which means “help me” while a federal agent beat him with a baton.
The details from those depositions were included in the judgment signed Sept. 29 by United States District Court Judge M. James Lorenz.
In his ruling, Lorenz denied summary judgment and ordered the civil lawsuit filed by Rojas’ widow, Maria Puga, and her family to move forward.
The lawsuit claims U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees violated Rojas First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents Jerry Vales and Alan Boutwell, Customs and Border Protection Officer S Kurt Sauer, U.S. Border Patrol Agents Gabriel Ducoing, Philip Krasielwicz and L Derrick Llewellyn, Immigration Enforcement Agents Andre Piligrino and Harinzo Narainesingh are named as defendants in the suit.
Supervisors Ishmael Finn, Guillermo E. Avila and Edward C. Caliri with the U.S. Border Patrol and Custom & Border Protection Supervisor Ramon DeJesus may also be held accountable in the case because they did not intervene, the suit claims.
Rojas and his brother were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents near the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego.
Arresting officials said Rojas was uncooperative and defiant as agents and officers took him to the Border Detention Facility and that the use of force was justified.
Agent Ducoing is accused of repeatedly kicking the insides of Rojas’ ankles. When Rojas complained of mistreatment and asked for medical aide, the suit alleges that Finn ordered agents Ducoing and Krasielwicz to take Rojas to the border and deport him without following standard procedures.
It was at this point that ICE agents Piligrino and Narainesingh allegedly used batons to strike Rojas and Llewllyn is accused of punching him repeatedly.
The five federal officials “punched, kicked and stepped on Anastacio’s head and body,” the lawsuit claims.
When members of the public gathered to record the incident, DeJesus is accused of confiscating phones and erasing images and videos.
Two other supervisors, identified in court documents as Avila and Caliri, are accused of hearing Rojas’ cries for help but not intervening.
Rojas suffered injuries to the face, forehead, neck, stomach, hands and lower legs as well as five broken ribs.
The medical examiner ruled Rojas’ death a homicide, but also said Rojas had methamphetamine in his system and had a heart attack.
In response to the ruling officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, "In order to preserve due process CBP cannot comment on pending litigation cases.”