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Slain Immigrant’s Dad Sues Rancher

June 30, 2000 GMT

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ The father of an illegal immigrant from Mexico filed a $15 million lawsuit Friday against a Texas rancher who allegedly shot the immigrant to death after he approached the rancher in search of water.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed about six weeks after the Mexican government hired lawyers to seek damages from vigilantes near the border who have detained illegal immigrants crossing north from Mexico.

Friday’s suit, filed in federal court in Del Rio, about 140 miles west of San Antonio, accuses Samuel H. Blackwood Jr. of shooting 23-year-old Eusebio de Haro Espinosa from behind after he and a companion walked up looking for water. It accuses Blackwood and his wife, Brenda, of failing to seek medical attention and leaving the man to die.

Blackwood, 75, surrendered to police on May 14, a day after the shooting. He initially was charged with murder, but a grand jury later indicted him on a lesser charge of deadly conduct, punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

He remains free on $10,000 bond. A trial date has not been set.

It was unclear whether Blackwood had hired an attorney in the civil case, but his lawyer in the criminal case, Mark Stevens, said: ``He’s not guilty of a crime and he committed no civil wrongdoing. He should not be held liable for any action.″

The Mexican government is providing some of the fees for the attorneys of Paciano de Haro Bueno, the immigrant’s father.

One attorney, Jim Branton, said the family is trying to make a statement.

``They want everyone to know (Espinosa) was a human being, like everyone else, who was shot down without justification,″ Branton said. ``They want to make it safer for other people.″

The family’s lawyers say Espinosa was walking on a public road near the Blackwoods’ ranch, which is close to the town of Brackettville, about 35 miles from the border.

They say Espinosa and his companion approached the Blackwoods and asked for water, but the Blackwoods refused and then pursued them in a vehicle.

According to authorities, Espinosa was about 300 yards from the couple’s home when Blackwood shot him. Espinosa was hit once in the leg and bled to death.