On the night of 18 May, his sister Annette Mattia (61) was only a few yards away, in her own home. She cried for five months after his death, standing in the same spot.
She said, “This is his home and I’m just sad and angry because it shouldn’t have happened at all.” If they had talked to him, it could have been a different outcome because he was not a danger.
“He didn’t deserving to die this way,” added her daughter Yvonne Nevarez (43).
Now the family is demanding justice.
“It feels to me like there are still killers walking around.” Who knows if they are back? “Who knows what else they could do?” Annette Mattia asked in an interview conducted outside her house.
The family members, some of whom reside on a compound within Menagers Dam Village, Tohono Nation, are convinced that the agents shot a man to death with little regard for his Constitutional rights. Federal prosecutors, however, have already stated that there won’t be any criminal charges.
Recent Supreme Court rulings have made it impossible to sue agents for constitutional violations. The 2022 decision is part of a series of rulings that have decimated victims’ ability to file lawsuits accusing Border Patrol agents using excessive force, or other constitutional violations.
The dismantling by the court of Bivens has had a ripple effect throughout the federal system and affected nearly all agencies. However, Border Patrol is a significant portion of federal law enforcement that’s armed and their geography presents a unique set of legal issues.
In a case known as Egbert V. Boule, which involved a claim made against a Border Patrol Agent, the court introduced a legal test that virtually makes it impossible to bring claims against federal officials.
The Mattia family, however, is not alone.
After the ruling, many lawsuits alleging constitutional violations have been dismissed. The people who have been mistreated by federal employees are denied their right to a trial, and instead they will never know if a juror would agree that the constitutional rights of those individuals were violated. has strengthened, the legal defense of qualified immunity. This made it more difficult to sue officials of government.
According to NBC News, a search of the LexisNexis database using Egbert’s 12 month period, the lower courts cited the case 228 times, in a variety of cases brought against federal officials of all types. In 195 cases, constitutional claims against federal officials were dismissed.
In the year following the Egbert decision, judges dismissed more than a dozen lawsuits where Customs and Border Protection officers, of which Border Patrol is a part, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) were accused of violating constitutional right.
The 15 claims out of 16 that were dismissed include:
- Migrants who are affected by Trump’s policy to separate children from their parents at the border.
- A protester from Texas claimed that Border Patrol agents unlawfully arrested and punched him, and used excessive force in pushing him down to the floor.
- An ICE agent shot a Mexican national in New York in the face and hand during a search for another person.
- Mexican immigrant, who ran away from ICE agents, but then stopped, he claims, and held his hands up before being shot.
A judge dismissed a claim by a federal employee of the Department of Homeland Security who sued the officials for malicious prosecution. The employee had been accused of falsifying a document.
Several plaintiffs have given up after the Egbert ruling. Abdulkadir Nur – a Somali American Muslim who claimed he was harassed at the airport by border protection agents every time he entered, retracted his Bivens claim following the decision.
It’s been a predictable nightmare. Justin Sadowsky is a lawyer at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ legal department, who represents Nur.
It is important to note that federal officers who are accused of misconduct will not be sued for their actions.
Civil rights activists say that without individual accountability, the wrongdoers will be protected, and unconstitutional acts can become commonplace in federal agencies such as Border Patrol.
Mattia’s family’s plight puts the spotlight on the Supreme Court ruling and how it affects the U.S. – Mexico border. Many already see this area as an unregulated hinterland, where constitutional rights aren’t respected.
Patrick Jaicomo is an attorney with the libertarian Institute for Justice. He said that “the court’s opinion is unequivocal” in Egbert, that no damages actions are available against Border Patrol agents for any reason, including what happened to Mattia.
Attorneys for the Mattia Family plan to file a wrongful-death claim against the federal Government. Details of the case were shared exclusively with NBC News. While the attorneys have not ruled out the possibility of bringing a suit alleging constitutional violations by the officers, they admit that the odds are extremely high.
The Egbert decision, according to lawyer Timothy Scott, makes it “very difficult” to hold individual officers responsible in front of juries.
Mattia screamed in pain, but remained motionless.
One agent told the other: “Hey, don’t f ——”
He was handcuffed, and blood ran through his jacket.
Agent: “Where is the gun?”
Another person attended to his wounds. “Keep breathing, Bro,” he said.
Mattia was found by the agents at 9:39 pm. He was declared dead at 10 p.m.
It is unclear whether the officers knew Mattia or were searching for him that night. His story is complex. The toxicology report showed that he was intoxicated with alcohol, methamphetamine, and oxycodone at the time of his death. His criminal history included a conviction from decades ago for a sexual offense.
Annette Mattia feels that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling is an insult after what happened to brother.
She said, “They know that they will get away with it.” “We won’t get justice.”