Agents who killed Arizona tribal man were answering report of gunfire, Border Patrol says

U.S. Border Patrol agents answering reports of gunfire shot and killed a man on a tribal reservation in southern Arizona after he abruptly threw something and raised his arm, the agency said Monday.

The FBI and Tohono O’odham Nation are also investigating the fatal shooting of Raymond Mattia on Thursday but had not released details about the shooting by Tuesday.

Monday’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection statement said tribal police had asked Border Patrol agents for help in responding to a report of shots fired west of the Menagers Dam community on tribal land near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The village is on the reservation east of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a sprawling UNESCO biosphere reserve with remote, rugged terrain that borders the Mexican state of Sonora.

Monday's statement suggests CBP is making an effort to increase its transparency on deadly force incidents.

"I think we can say that CBP is being more circumspect," said Adam Isacson, director of defense oversight along the U.S. border for the nongovernmental Washington Office on Latin America. "This could really change things in a big way by letting us see what the camera sees, not just the accounts of agents about what happened."

The three Border Patrol agents who opened fire and at least seven others at the scene were wearing body cameras and activated them during the shooting, the department said.

"CBP is committed to expeditious release of the body worn camera footage of this incident as soon as is appropriate to do so without impacting the ongoing law enforcement investigation," it said.

At around 9:30 p.m., the agents were told that reports indicated shots had been fired near the home of a "named individual" and a tribal officer went to the location to look for the person, with the agents following in separate cars, the statement said.

A few minutes after arriving, the police officer and the agents encountered a man outside of a home near their parked cars, the statement said.

The man threw some kind of object toward the officer that landed a few feet away and then "abruptly extended his right arm away from his body and three agents fired their service weapons, striking the individual several times," the statement said.

Because of bad weather, no air ambulance was available to take the man to a hospital and despite lifesaving efforts he was declared dead shortly after 10 p.m., according to the statement.

Tribal chairman Ned Norris Jr. identified the man on Sunday as Mattia, 58, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Norris has not issued additional details about the shooting, including whether investigators found a weapon, and a spokesperson for the tribe has not responded to follow-up queries.

The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday that an autopsy last week determined that Mattia died from "gunshot wounds sustained during an interaction with law enforcement." The office said it would not comment further until the release of the written examination report, which isn't expected for weeks.

The agents involved in the shooting are on leave with pay.

Family members also said that Mattia had gone outside when he saw the agents and was only two feet from his front door when dozens of shots were fired at him.

Those details also couldn’t immediately be verified.

About 7,000 body cameras have now been issued to agency workplaces under a program launched in August 2021.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced a policy this week for their use and said the department will keep bringing more cameras online while working with Congress to get the funding for more.

The shooting is under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and will be reviewed by the agency’s National Use of Force Review Board, the statement said.

Area where the shooting happened: