Two years after he was shot in the head while driving southbound through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry – an episode he reportedly has no memory of and which the government has not sufficiently clarified for him – Angel Mendivil Perez of Tucson has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.
The federal complaint, filed by Tucson-based lawyer William Risner on Feb. 4, argued that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers used “unreasonable” and “excessive” deadly force against then-21-year-old Mendivil.
“The agent and/or officers acted intentionally with the specific purpose of causing harm or death to Mr. Mendivil without legal justification,” Risner wrote in the complaint, which repeatedly asserts that officers at the port faced no danger of bodily harm from Mendivil.
The claim stems from an incident on Feb. 7, 2019, when an unidentified CBP officer conducting outbound inspections at the DeConcini port shot Mendivil in the head after he attempted to flee.
According to a CBP news release at the time, officers at the port were alerted to the tan Ford pickup truck, bearing a license plate registered to a different vehicle, that Mendivil was driving while trying to exit the country with a 17-year-old male in the passenger seat.
When officers approached the vehicle and questioned him, Mendivil accelerated the truck towards Mexico and an officer discharged their weapon at him, the CBP statement said.
Mendivil then crashed into a cement barrier a few yards into Nogales, Sonora, where he was initially taken to a hospital before being transported to a Southern Arizona hospital for treatment of his injuries.
It wasn’t clear from the CBP news release why the officer decided to fire their weapon, since fleeing arrest alone is not grounds for the use of lethal force, and no charges were brought upon Mendivil or his passenger.
Since then, CBP has not released additional information about the incident.
Risner wrote in the complaint that Mendivil has not been able to obtain information about the location of the officer who shot him, or where his vehicle was when the bullet passed through the back window of the truck and into the top of his head.
“Therefore, he has filed this claim alternatively,” says the claim, which seeks monetary and punitive damages, and a trial by jury.
“What is certain is that he was struck prior to entry to Mexican jurisdiction or encountering any Mexican officials,” Risner wrote in the complaint, adding that Mendivil continues to suffer from severe, permanent injuries caused by the bullet to the head.