Gomez Vincente, et al., v. United States of America, et al., No. 5:20-cv-00081 (S.D. Tex., filed May 12, 2020)
On May 24, 2018, Border Patrol agent Romualdo Barrera shot and killed Claudia Patricia Gómez González, a twenty-year-old Guatemalan woman, several hundred yards from the U.S.-Mexico border in Rio Bravo, Texas. Claudia was walking through Rio Bravo with a few other people when Agent Barrera confronted the group. Although several members of the group began running, Claudia remained where she was. Agent Barrera drew his weapon, and when Claudia – a petite woman who was not carrying anything that could even remotely be perceived to be a weapon – took a step forward, the agent aimed at her, pulled the trigger, and shot her in the head.
Following the shooting, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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 the blunt objects or allegations that Claudia had assaulted the agent.
On May 23, 2019, Claudia’s family filed an administrative claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for Claudia’s wrongful death, seeking substantial damages and hoping to ensure accountability for the officials’ unlawful acts. When more than six months passed after filing the claim without any action by the agencies, Claudia’s family filed a federal suit against the United States for common law battery, negligence, gross negligence, and reckless conduct pursuant to the FTCA, and against the agent who killed Claudia for excessive, unreasonable force and deprivation of due process in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
On May 13, 2020, the Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to expedite discovery, which the court granted in part and denied in part on May 19, 2020. On September 9, 2020, Defendants filed their answer. On September 29, 2020, Defendant Barrera filed a motion to dismiss the Bivens claims against him. On December 1, 2020, the court granted the U.S.’s motion to stay the case pending an FBI investigation of Claudia’s death.
The stay was lifted on July 8, 2021. On July 19, 2021, Magistrate Judge John Kazen issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) recommending the district court dismiss all Bivens claims. On August 2021, Plaintiffs filed their objections to the R&R. On September 29, 2021, United States District Judge Diana Saldaña adopted the Magistrate Judge’s R&R in part and dismissed all Bivens claims.
The parties settled the remaining FTCA claims for an undisclosed amount. The case was dismissed pursuant to a stipulation of dismissal.
- Administrative FTCA Complaint
- District Court Complaint
- Motion for Expedited Discovery
- Barrera’s Motion to Dismiss
- Plaintiffs’ Response to Motion to Dismiss
- Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss
- Order Granting Stay Pending Investigation
- Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation
- Plaintiffs’ Objections to R&R
- District Court Order Adopting in part R&R
Counsel: Kirkland & Ellis LLP; ACLU of Texas; ACLU Immigrant Rights Project
Contact: Edgar Saldivar | ACLU of Texas | firstname.lastname@example.org