Investigation: U.S. Border Agents Fatally Shoot Tribe Member in Arizona
The F.B.I. and federal border officials are investigating the fatal shooting last week of a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation by U.S. border agents on the reservation in Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.
Agents from the Ajo Station were involved in the shooting around 10 p.m. Thursday near Ajo, Ariz., according to Robert Daniels, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. Days later, the authorities had released few details about the shooting on Monday.
The authorities did not name the man who was killed, but Ned Norris Jr., the chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, identified him as Raymond Mattia, in a statement provided to The Associated Press. Mr. Norris and the Nation did not return calls and messages on Monday.
KVOA, an NBC affiliate in Tucson, quoted unnamed relatives who said Raymond Mattia had called the authorities because multiple migrants had trespassed into his yard. The New York Times could not independently confirm those accounts.
Mr. Daniels said the shooting was under review by the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Customs and Border Protection. He added that the F.B.I. and the Tohono O’odham Police were also investigating.
The F.B.I. said the shooting occurred in the village of Menagers Dam, which is about a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border and about 40 miles north of Ajo. The bureau’s Phoenix field office confirmed that it was assisting the Tohono O’odham Police but would not provide further information.
The killing comes as the United States has been bracing for an increase in asylum seekers crossing the southern border after the expiration this month of the public health measure known as Title 42, which had ordered the immediate expulsion of most migrants through the pandemic.
“Our hearts go out to his family and all those impacted during this difficult time,” Mr. Norris said in the Tohono O’odham statement. “As the investigation proceeds, the Nation expects full consideration of all related facts of the incident and an appropriate and expeditious response from relevant public safety agencies. Because the investigation is ongoing, we will refrain from making further comment at this time.”
The nation occupies nearly 3 million acres in southwestern Arizona and includes about 28,000 members, making it the second largest reservation in Arizona in both population and geographical size, according to the tribal nation’s website.
Ophelia Rivas, a family friend, told News 4 Tucson that Mr. Mattia was a law-abiding citizen, artist, singer and traditional hunter.
“He was not an aggressive kind of man, he was not violent,” she said, and added that he was “always kind to his family and taking care of them however he could.”