LAREDO, Texas — The ACLU of Texas and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed a legal claim against the federal government today on behalf of the family of Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a young Guatemalan woman killed by a Border Patrol agent in the U.S.-Mexico border town of Rio Bravo, Texas. Gomez, 20, was fatally shot by a federal agent one year ago today.
“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.”
“We are proud to join the ACLU of Texas and our clients in fighting for accountability for Claudia’s unlawful killing,” said Dmitriy Tishyevich, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. “Claudia deserves the full protection of the law, just like everyone else. We look forward to achieving justice for Claudia and her family.”
As alleged in the claim, on May 23, 2018, Claudia was traveling along Centeno Lane, in Rio Bravo, with a few other people. A U.S. Border Patrol agent confronted the group. Claudia—a petite woman of small build—did not have any weapons or anything that could remotely be perceived as a weapon, and neither she nor anyone near her did anything that could plausibly be seen as threatening or violent. The agent then drew his weapon and shot her in the head.
After Claudia’s death, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a press release claiming that members of Claudia’s group had attacked the agent with “blunt objects” and that Claudia was one of the assailants. It later retracted that statement and issued a new one, removing any references to blunt objects or allegations that Claudia had assaulted the agent.
“We will forever have an emptiness in our hearts because an agent of the U.S. government took Claudia’s life in such a horrific and unnecessary way,” said Gilberto Gomez Vicente, father of Claudia Gomez. “Claudia was a kind, loving, and peaceful girl with big dreams, who would never do anything to harm anyone. My promise to Claudia is to fight for justice so that her life is not forgotten and her death is not in vain.”
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). An administrative claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act is a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit against the U.S. Government for torts committed by its agents and employees. 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 agent’s identity has not been officially released by the U.S. government or any investigating agency, and the U.S. Government has not confirmed the status of its criminal investigation into the agent.
Plaintiffs are seeking substantial damages for Claudia’s death, which they hope will send a message that the Government must ensure accountability for officials’ unlawful acts.