Native American tribal leaders in Arizona are protesting the decision made by a US attorney’s office not to prosecute federal border agents involved in the shooting death of Raymond Mattia, an unarmed tribe member. The incident occurred in May on the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation near the US-Mexico border. The agents, who were responding to a call for help from tribal police regarding shots fired, fired at Mattia outside a residence. They later claimed they believed he had thrown something at an officer and was brandishing a gun. However, bodycam footage released in June showed that Mattia was not armed.
The Pima county medical examiner determined that Mattia sustained nine gunshot wounds. A toxicology report revealed that he had a high blood alcohol level and drugs in his system, including amphetamine and oxycodone. In response to the decision not to bring charges, the tribe’s chair, Verlon Jose, and vice-chair, Carla Johnson, released a statement expressing their dissatisfaction. They stated that there were unanswered questions and considered the decision a “travesty of justice.” The tribal leaders are considering requesting a congressional inquiry into the matter.
The US attorney’s office defended its decision, stating that the agents’ use of force did not meet the criteria for federal criminal civil rights violation or a criminal violation under Arizona law. The office acknowledged the frustration expressed by the tribal leaders. The US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the agency to which the agents belong, has not provided a comment on the matter. The CBP’s office of professional responsibility is currently investigating the shooting but has not released any findings yet.
This incident is part of a series of controversies involving CBP agents. In April, CBP agents were involved in a fatal shooting near Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a 23-mile chase. Additionally, the family of an eight-year-old girl from Panama who died in CBP custody in Texas in May has accused the agency of negligence. They claim that the girl was denied hospital care despite exhibiting signs of distress and having a high fever during her nine days of detention.