Border Patrol pursuit ends in fatal shooting
A Border Patrol pursuit near Sasabe, Arizona, on March 14, 2023, ended in a fatal shooting.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Raymond Mattia celebrated his 58th birthday one day before he was shot and killed by Border Patrol agents.
Mattia’s daughter didn’t even have the chance to give him his birthday cake, which she made for him before he died.
Three Border Patrol agents on May 18 shot Mattia, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, multiple times steps outside of his home in the Meneger’s Dam community, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“He was my baby brother,” said Annette Mattia, Mattia’s sister. “He just celebrated his 58th birthday before his life was taken.”
Annette lived next door to Mattia and had spoken to him over the phone seconds before the gunfire rang out. Annette told Mattia that the Border Patrol agents were heading to his yard after they arrived. Annette said she could only see flashlights in the darkness of the night.
“(Mattia) calmly said, ‘OK, I’ll go talk to them,’ and then two seconds later, that’s when I heard all the gunfire,” Annette recalled. “Someone did say ‘Raymond,’ and then someone said ‘get my bag,’ and immediately we knew it was him.”
The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Tuesday that Mattia died of gunshot wounds sustained during an interaction with law enforcement. The determination comes from an autopsy performed May 19, the day after the shooting.
The gunshots echoed throughout the remote village that sits about a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border, Annette said. Annette couldn’t recall exactly how many gunshots she heard, only the resonating noise.
“It sounded like a war going on,” Annette said. “I keep hearing those gunshots.”
Mattia was shot roughly 38 times, according to a report from Tucson TV station KVOA. CBP has not yet confirmed how many times Mattia was shot.
What we know: Border Patrol fatally shoots Tohono O’odham man
Agents from the Naco Border Patrol Station fatally shot Mattia after he allegedly threw an object toward a police officer and abruptly extended his right arm away from his body, according to CBP. The Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department had requested assistance from the Border Patrol to respond to a shots-fired call west of the village.
One police officer and at least 10 Border Patrol agents were present for the shooting
“It was just the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” Annette said. “Just hearing what happened and then realizing it was my brother they were shooting at.”
Annette said she went into shock and couldn’t breathe when the shooting happened.
Mattia laid in front of his home for seven hours before a coroner from Tucson arrived, Annette said. Mattia’s family gathered shortly after the shooting and stayed at the crime scene with Mattia “all along,” Annette said.
Shot 38 times: Border Patrol shot Tohono O’odham member 38 times outside his home, report says
Agents administered CPR to Mattia after they couldn’t detect a pulse and requested air life medical evacuation. However, inclement weather made air life evacuation unavailable, per CBP.
Mattia was pronounced dead at 10:06 p.m.
Mattia’s loved ones didn’t know about his condition until they were told he died hours later, according to a written statement released Wednesday by the Mattia family Wednesday.
“Raymond called for help and, in turn, was shot down at his doorstep,” the statement read. “Raymond’s rights were violated by the authorities whom we trust to protect our Nation.”
Mattia described as ‘loving, kind, helpful’
Mattia was the father of two and a traditional singer for ceremonies in the community and in Mexico, Annette said. Mattia was also an artist, a prospector, a sculptor and a hunter, she added.
Mattia was very involved in the community’s traditional ceremonies, often singing at the events every year, Annette said.
“He was a very loving, kind, helpful person,” Annette said.
Mattia lived most of his life in the Meneger’s Dam Village, where his family was from, Annette said. Mattia was on the community council of the village and would always speak up for the community, Yvonne Nevarez, Mattia’s niece said.
“He would always stick up for not only his rights, but the rights of others if he saw anyone being mistreated,” Nevarez said.
“It feels like he’s still fighting now, even after his death, to make it known how we are being treated.”
Mattia told Annette that migrants had come to his door earlier in the day, asking to use his phone. Mattia refused but the experience frightened him, Annette said.
Body camera release: CBP releases body camera video for fatal Border Patrol shooting in Arizona
Mattia notified authorities, but it was not clear if he called the Border Patrol or police, Annette said.
It’s common for migrants to walk through residents’ yards and the village after they cross the southern border nearby, Annette said. Annette is always calling the Border Patrol for help and sometimes they come but, sometimes, they don’t, she said.
Most of the time, residents must deal with the crossings themselves, often standing outside until the migrants leave, Annette added. Nevarez said she feels that a lot of what the Border Patrol does is monitor residents of the village.
“They keep an eye on people in the village,” Annette said.
Preliminary information about the shooting raises serious concerns about Mattia’s death, tribal chairperson Ned Norris Jr. said Wednesday in a written statement. It’s critical that people do not prejudge the situation and to allow the investigating agencies to complete their work, Norris Jr. said.
The FBI and the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department are investigating the shooting.
A peaceful protest to support all victims of the “unmonitored violent actions of the Border Patrol and other agencies” will be held outside of the Ajo Border Patrol Station Saturday. Mattia’s family is preparing to launch a GoFundMe campaign soon.
Have a news tip or story idea about the border and its communities? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or connect with him on Twitter @joseicastaneda.