SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Family members of an illegal immigrant who died in 2010 following a brutal encounter with federal border agents that was captured on videotape have agreed to settle their lawsuit against the U.S. government for $1 million, court documents show.
Video footage of a U.S. Customs officer tasering Anastacio Rojas Hernandez at least four times while he lay on the ground handcuffed and surrounded by nearly a dozen agents has been widely broadcast and appeared in a PBS documentary about border deaths.
Hernandez’s five children sued the Department of Homeland Security and the agents over their father’s death.
Court documents filed this week indicate that the children will share a settlement of about $750,000. Their mother, Maria Puga, will receive nothing and the family’s lawyers will receive $250,000.
Hernandez, 42, and his brother were arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents on May 28, 2010, after they were caught crossing the border from Mexico in the mountains east of San Diego.
The lawsuit, filed in January 2011, disputes federal authorities’ assertions that he became combative, saying instead that Hernandez became the victim of abuse when he asked to see an immigration judge.
A border agent responded by slamming him against a wall and kicking him so hard in the ankles that it reopened a surgical wound in his lower leg, the lawsuit said.
Hernandez, who had lived in the San Diego area for more than a decade, was then driven to a border crossing to be summarily deported, and was assaulted by a group of agents there when he again demanded medical attention and a hearing before a judge, the complaint said.
Shoved to the ground while handcuffed, Hernandez was set upon by several agents who repeatedly punched, kicked and stomped on his head and body, then stood back as one officer administered a series of five electric shocks to him with a Taser, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint said agents then beat Hernandez more and used plastic zip-ties to strap his ankles to his wrists, leaving him in that hog-tied position as he stopped breathing. He was resuscitated but died later at a hospital without ever regaining consciousness.
Justice Department officials announced in November 2015 that they had closed their investigation of Hernandez’s death without bringing civil or criminal action against the federal agents involved, saying that there was insufficient evidence to prove they had violated Hernandez’s civil rights.
Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Editing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Grant McCool