Family members of a Mexican woman who drowned when a panga sank off the coast of California are suing the U.S. government claiming Customs and Border Protection officers used excessive force.
Graciela Lopez Franco, 32, of Arandas, Jalisco died on June 18 after a panga and a CBP boat collided.
The lawsuit filed this week by Franco’s parents claim federal agents rammed the panga on purpose, causing the smaller boat to break apart.
CBP officials have said the boat was carrying 20 people who were suspected of trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
The lawsuit claims the CBP officers did not identify themselves as law enforcement or give any direction in English or Spanish to the passengers of the boat.
The suit also alleges the officers fired weapons either into the air or into the motor of the panga.
“After maneuvering within inches of the panga and disabling its motor, defendants then rammed the vessel, causing it to break apart and spill its occupants into the sea,” the lawsuit alleges.
On the day of the incident, CBP spokesperson Jackie Wasiluk said the boat was spotted off the coast of Encinitas and did not yield so officers fired warning shots.
Supervisory Marine Interdiction Agent, in the San Diego Air and Marine Branch of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Christopher Hunter and CBP Marine Interdiction agents Arian Linscott and Craig Jenkins are named as defendants.
When asked for a statement, a CBP spokesperson said, "CBP does not comment on pending litigation."
Franco’s Parents, Trinidad Lopez Hernandez and Marta Franco Jimenez, are named as plaintiffs in the case.