SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Mexican man who was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in a remote mountainous area was shot twice in the chest after allegedly pelting the agent with rocks, according to an autopsy report released Friday.
Two casings were recovered about 16 feet from the body of Jesus Flores, 41, whose death on Feb. 18 came amid controversy about how Border Patrol agents should respond to rock throwers. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office said three rounds were missing from the agent's gun.
Investigators have said Flores threw a rock about the size of a basketball while positioned above the agent on a hillside and hurled another that that hit the agent in the head. They said the agent, Daniel Basinger, feared another blow could kill or incapacitate him.
The autopsy says both bullets took a downward path in Flores' chest and did not exit the body.
Scott Ross, a Los Angeles private investigator whose cases include Michael Jackson's physician Conrad Murray and actor Robert Blake, said a bullet can go down even if the shooter fires from below. It can bounce off a bone or muscle, and the angle of Flores' body when he was shot — which is not explained in the autopsy report — could also have played a part.
Ross, who is not involved in the case, also highlighted the absence of exit wounds.
"You have to have two points to measure," he said. "If it didn't come out of his back, you don't have that second measurement."
San Diego County Sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio, whose department is leading the investigation, said there are reasons that a bullet can take a downward path when shots are fired from below. But he said he couldn't speculate on what happened in Flores' case.
According to investigators, Basinger ordered Flores to stop and chased him down a ravine and up a hill, where the shooting occurred about four miles from San Diego's Otay Mesa port of entry. The account is based on the agent's statement, and there were no other surviving eyewitnesses.
The killing sparked criticism from the Mexican government at a time when the Border Patrol has been under scrutiny for use of force, particularly against rock throwers and assailants in vehicles.
Under current policy, agents can use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that their lives or the lives of others are in danger. Last month, Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher urged agents to show restraint.