Agent involved in shooting responds to suitBy Jonathon Shacat
Wick News Service
BISBEE — U.S. Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Corbett filed a response in federal court in Tucson on Friday for a civil rights lawsuit over the death of Francisco Dominguez-Rivera, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, in 2007.
Corbett shot and killed Dominguez-Rivera on Jan. 12, 2007, while apprehending him between Naco and Douglas. He was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide.
He went on trial twice in 2008, but both juries were unable to reach verdicts. The charges were dismissed in December.
The civil suit, filed on Dec. 10, alleges that Corbett violated the constitutional rights of the Dominguez-Rivera’s parents by wrongfully and unconstitutionally causing his death in violation of the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The complaint alleges that “Defendant Corbett, without warning or cause, then shot and killed Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera, execution style, with a firing range of approximately 3 to 12 inches.”
In response to that, his filing states, “Defendant admits that he shot Mr. Dominguez Rivera in self-defense while in close proximity to him after Mr. Rivera attempted to injure or kill him with a rock.”
Corbett also denies an allegation that Border Patrol supervisory personnel have condoned a practice whereby agents are allowed to shoot at unarmed Mexican nationals without thorough investigation or threat of discipline.
The suit seeks actual, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs.
Corbett contends the plaintiffs are not entitled to punitive damages. And, he states, “plaintiff’s recovery, if any, must be diminished or barred by comparative negligence and/or assumption of the risk on the part of the deceased.”
He also asserts he is not liable for his actions pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He asks the court that judgment be rendered in his favor for costs of the suit and attorney’s fees.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs are listed as Richard Gonzales in Tucson and Federico Castelan Sayre in Santa Ana, Calif.
Sean Chapman, the lead defense attorney in Corbett’s criminal case, is now representing him on the civil case.
“The Department of Justice referred the case to me because of some conflict of interest, and I am not exactly sure what the conflict is,” he said during a phone interview Friday.
There is currently no hearing date scheduled in U.S. District Court for this case. Chapman said he anticipates the judge will set a schedule order.