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Family of California woman killed by U.S. Border Patrol files suit

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The family of a San Diego woman killed in an encounter with the U.S. Border Patrol filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit on Tuesday alleging a plainclothes agent used excessive force when he opened fire on the woman as she tried to flee in a car.

Valeria Munique Tachiquin Alvarado, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen and a mother of five, was shot to death in September outside the Chula Vista apartment of a friend who agents had come to arrest, the lawsuit against the agent said.

The encounter occurred just south of San Diego and about seven miles north of the border with Mexico.

"We filed this lawsuit to obtain the truth and to reveal it in a transparent way," Eugene Iredale, an attorney for the woman's family, told reporters. He said he had not received information on the investigation into the incident from authorities.

The U.S. Border Patrol said in a statement the investigation into Alvarado's death is continuing and that the Chula Vista Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General are involved.

"We continue to fully cooperate in the investigation of this matter," the Border Patrol statement said. "Because the investigation continues and because of the pending litigation we will not comment further at this time."

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California said that Alvarado's friend, who agents had come to arrest at his apartment, was sought in connection with immigration-related deportation proceedings.

Alvarado, who was later found to have methamphetamine in her system, fled the apartment and got behind the wheel of her car while Border Patrol agent Justin Tackett chased after her, the lawsuit said.

Border Patrol officials said at the time that Alvarado drove into Tackett, struck him with the car and drove 200 yards with him hanging on the hood before he fired nine times through the windshield, killing her.

But the lawsuit disputed that account, saying that Tackett opened fire on Alvarado when he was on the street, not on the car.

The lawsuit named Tackett as a defendant but also accused unnamed Border Patrol officials of failing to properly screen him when he was hired.

A spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents border agents, declined to comment.

(Reporting by Marty Graham; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)

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