(NEW YORK) — An unarmed man allegedly shot in the face by a federal immigration officer earlier this month has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the agent and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Erick Diaz Cruz, 26, was visiting his mother in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn on Feb. 6 when he awoke to “men’s voices and banging on the door,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District.
ICE officers were outside with his mother’s partner, Gaspar Avendaño-Hernandez, who was being targeted for removal.
According to the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, an unidentified ICE officer fired a gun directly at Cruz’s face. The bullet fractured multiple bones as it passed through Cruz’s left hand and into his left cheek, lodging behind his ear, according to the lawsuit.
“This was not just an attack against me, but also an attack against the entire Latino community in the United States,” Cruz said in a statement. “Our community must come together to protest ICE’s violence.”
Cruz was in New York from his hometown of Martinez de la Torre, Veracruz, Mexico, on a valid tourist visa, according to the lawsuit.
“Along with millions of New Yorkers, we are heartbroken and sickened by ICE’s senseless and unjustified shooting of Erick,” said his attorney, Katie Rosenfeld of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “Erick posed no threat to anyone, at any time. Erick’s face is shattered, and he and his family are traumatized.”
The lawsuit said the shooting left Cruz’s life “forever altered,” adding that “what had started as a pleasant vacation with his girlfriend to see his family in New York, and a welcome break from his steady job as a municipal employee in Veracruz, Mexico, became a horrific, life-altering trip causing him grave and permanent injuries.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and named the alleged shooter, “John Doe 1,” as a defendant.
At the time of the shooting, ICE said in a statement that the shooting was provoked.
“A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fugitive Operations Team discharged at least one firearm in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday morning when officers were physically attacked while attempting to arrest Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, a twice-removed illegal alien from Mexico with a 2011 assault conviction in New York City,” the agency said.
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News on Wednesday.
Avendaño-Hernandez had been arrested three days prior to the shooting for possession of a forged instrument. ICE tried to take him into custody on an immigration detainer, but city authorities don’t recognize detainers unaccompanied by a signed arrest warrant.
“This forced ICE officers to locate him on the streets of New York rather than in the safe confines of a jail,” ICE said in a statement at the time.
The case became fodder for an ongoing dispute between the Trump administration and New York over its sanctuary policies that give some shield to undocumented immigrants from federal enforcement.
Last week, the Trump administration said it will deploy 100 members of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit, a rapid-response security force, to assist ICE officers with removing undocumented immigrants from sanctuary cities like New York and Chicago.
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