ACLU files $100 million legal claim against U.S. over shooting death of unarmed indigenous woman
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP have filed a $100 million legal claim against the federal government over the shooting death of Claudia Patricia Gómez González, an unarmed indigenous woman, at the hands of a Border Patrol agent. The claim, which the ACLU said in a statement “is a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit,” was filed on the first anniversary of her killing.
“We are demanding justice for the senseless killing of Claudia Patricia Gómez González,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “It’s been more than a year and the U.S. government still has not held the agency or the agent who shot and killed her responsible. It is crucial to hold our government accountable and we will pursue every avenue to make sure action is taken to obtain justice for Claudia and prevent further needless loss of life.”
Border officials lied about Gómez González’s murder from the start, falsely claiming that she and a group of migrants had ambushed an agent with “blunt objects” after crossing the border into Texas in May 2018. In fact, “the migrants interviewed by the Guardian denied having sticks or rocks, and said Claudia was unarmed, timid and scared.” They were backed up by an eyewitness who said Gómez González was frightened and hiding, not attacking anyone.
But even as authorities continue their investigation, the killing remains shrouded in secrecy, and even the questions of whether the agent who killed her is still on the job or is facing criminal investigation have remained unanswered. “Claudia’s parents claim that the U.S. government, through its Border Patrol agent, is liable for Gomez’s wrongful death under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA),” the ACLU continued. “If the administrative claim is not resolved within six months, Claudia’s parents can sue in federal court, where they can also pursue individual claims against the agent.”
The U.S. has already paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle claims against border agents, with the Southern Border Communities Coalition saying that “since January 2010, at least 83 people have died as the result of an encounter with U.S. border agents. Many more have been brutalized, in some cases causing life-altering injuries.” In one horrific example, agent Matthew Bowen called migrants “disgusting subhuman shit unworthy of being kindling for a fire” just weeks before trying to run over a man with his truck. Bowen is facing trial in August.
But far too many have evaded justice, and Claudia’s parents hope for something better, not just to honor their daughter’s memory, but to ensure that there are no more deaths at the hands of these agents. “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,” said her mom Lidia. “We pray to god that the guilty man is sent to jail and pays for what he did,” said her dad Gilberto. “And we hope that the Americans stop killing migrants.”