The ACLU Is Taking on Border Patrol Over the Fatal Shooting of a Guatemalan Woman

Illustration for article titled The ACLU Is Taking on Border Patrol Over the Fatal Shooting of a Guatemalan Woman
Photo: Moises Castillo/AP

The ACLU of Texas has filed a $100 million claim for damages against the U.S. government over the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan woman by Border Patrol in 2018, according to BuzzFeed. The claim is a required legal step that will almost certainly lead to a lawsuit.


The ACLU’s claim is for wrongful death and personal injury of the 20-year-old Guatemalan woman, Claudia Patricia Gómez González, who died in 2018 when she was shot in the head by Border Patrol. The claim accuses the government of battery, negligence, and reckless conduct. It was filed on the one year anniversary of Gómez’s death.

“The government should acknowledge this was a miscarriage of justice and should attempt to make amends with the family,” Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, told BuzzFeed.


Customs and Border Protection, who are the defendants of the claim along with the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol, told BuzzFeed that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Gómez, according to her family, was from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and was of indigenous Mayan ancestry. She was a good student with a certification in accounting who traveled to America in the hopes of finding a job.

When Gómez encountered Border Patrol officers on May 23, 2018, she was walking with other migrants near the Rio Grande river in Texas. CBP said “that as the agent attempted to apprehend the group, he came under attack by multiple subjects using blunt objects.”

Marta Martinez, a woman who lived near the place where the shooting happened, broadcast a video of herself confronting the Border Patrol agents.


“Why did you kill that woman? You killed her!” Martinez says in the video, which went viral. “I saw you with the gun.”

Later, CBP amended their claims, saying that the officer was “allegedly assaulted” and “rushed,” by migrants, leaving out the mention of “blunt objects.”


“According to the agent, the group ignored his verbal commands [to get on the ground] and instead rushed him,” the statement read.

Gómez was initially described as “one of the assailants.” In CBP’s second statement, she was described as simply a member of the group.


The ACLU’s claim says that the migrants in the group dispersed when Border Patrol agent approached them. The claim alleges that two migrants ran back towards the river, while two ran towards an abandoned mobile home to hide from the agent. Gómez and another migrant apparently stayed in the vacant lot.

“The agent drew his weapon. When Claudia took a step, the agent aimed at her, pulled the trigger, and shot her in the head,” the claim says. “Claudia fell to the ground, face down.”


“I thought the agent had fired in the air to scare us, I went back a little way, but couldn’t see anything, so kept running,” one of the migrants who ran and hid nearby told The Guardian.

From BuzzFeed:

The agent then chased the two men, who hid in the mobile home, and soon after other Border Patrol agents arrived at the scene, the claim states. Another Border Patrol agent turned her over.

In an unpublished video reported by BuzzFeed News that was taken by Marta Martínez, who lived nearby, the camera points to Gómez’s body as another agent flips her over, blood covering her face.


“He was very angry,” one of the men hiding in the mobile home told The Guardian of the agent. “He was holding his weapon with both hands, pointing it straight at us, and said [in Spanish] we had one opportunity to leave.”

The ACLU say in their claim that Gómez was unarmed and not carrying anything that could be used as a weapon. She’s described as “petite.”


“No one other than the agent had any weapons,” the claim says. “No one in the group did anything that could remotely be construed as threatening or violent, let alone as posing any imminent danger of serious physical injury or death.”

Segura says Border Patrol agents need better training on using weapons. CBP “needs to make it clear to its agents when they should actually pull out a gun,” she told BuzzFeed. “And make it clear that people simply running is no reason for a gun to be pulled out,” she added.


Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, says he has spoken with Gómez’s father.

“He is still traumatized by the death of his daughter,” Saldivar told BuzzFeed. “He’s got mixed feelings because he’s happy we’re pursuing justice, but at the same time he’s extremely sad at the one-year anniversary of his daughter’s death.”


Investigations of the incident are underway by the FBI, Texas Rangers, and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, but any results haven’t been made public.

“We’ve had no news from the American authorities, no visits, no phone calls. It’s a year since my daughter was killed and I want the same thing now as I did then: justice,” Gómez’s father told The Guardian earlier this month.


The name of the Border Patrol agent who killed Gómez has not been released.

“We still don’t know the name of the person who killed my daughter. We don’t know if he’s in jail or still working. We don’t know why he killed her,” Gómez’s mother, Lidia González, told The Guardian.


“We pray to god that the guilty man is sent to jail and pays for what he did,” she said. “And we hope that the Americans stop killing migrants.”

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