The Cochise County Attorney’s Office will not file charges against a Border Patrol agent who shot and killed a Douglas teenager more than two years ago, officials said.
There is insufficient evidence “to ensure a reasonable conviction likelihood,” said Cochise County Chief Criminal Deputy Doyle Johnstun.
Lucas Tidwell, a Border Patrol agent, shot Carlos LaMadrid in the back several times as the teen tried to evade authorities and cross into Agua Prieta.
The County Attorney’s Office had tentatively decided not to prosecute “some time ago,” Johnstun said, but was waiting for the Justice Department to conclude its own investigation to see if it resulted in any new evidence.
The Justice Department announced on March 9 that there wasn’t enough evidence to file federal civil-rights charges or to prove the agent wasn’t acting in self-defense.
The government said the 19-year-old was in the line of fire because people were throwing rocks at the agents from the top of the fence.
“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” Guadalupe Guerrero, LaMadrid’s mother said about the county’s decision.
“I just can’t find justice,” she said, as she broke down crying.
Jesus Romo, one of two attorneys representing LaMadrid’s family in a civil suit, said he regrets the county’s decision.
“I hope that in the future they make their decisions based more on the facts than on pragmatic considerations,” he said.
Cochise County Attorney Edward Rheinheimer brought a second-degree murder case against Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Corbett in 2008. There were two trials that ended in hung juries before he dropped the case.
Rheinheimer faced severe backlash from people across the nation; some called for his resignation and others made death threats.
But Johnstun said the County Attorney’s Office looks at each case objectively .
“We try to keep politics on both sides away from any decision,” he said.
It’s a shame that LaMadrid is dead, he said, but, “The agent was put in a position where he felt he had to start shooting to save himself.”
Sean Chapman, the attorney representing Tidwell, said the county made the right decision because the agent didn’t do anything wrong.
“He was trying to defend himself in a very difficult situation,” he said.
“The bigger picture is that the rock throwers and LaMadrid made the unfortunate decision to involve themselves in very dangerous activity,” he added.
The pursuit that led to the shooting began about noon March 21, 2011, when someone called Douglas police to report a gold Chevrolet Avalanche had been loaded with bundles of marijuana.
Police officers saw LaMadrid’s truck and started following him, but he sped toward the border, police reports say, until he collided with a Border Patrol agent’s SUV, according to news accounts.
LaMadrid then jumped out of his truck and ran toward the border fence, the reports say. As he climbed a ladder up the fence, other men in Agua Prieta threw brick-size rocks at Tidwell and he fired a handful of rounds, hitting LaMadrid. He was declared dead several hours later at a hospital.
Now that both investigations have concluded, the civil suit the family filed against the federal government will proceed, Romo said.