17 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the accountability status is “Under Local Police investigation”

July 30, 2023

Ronaldo Alvarado, a 25-year-old, off-duty Border Patrol agent, died of gunshot wounds to his head after a confrontation with local police in Brownsville, Texas.

Police responded to a civilian call, reporting that Alvarado, later identified by authorities, was armed, “highly intoxicated”, and “being extremely aggressive.” Police located his vehicle and attempted to pull him over, when Alvarado reportedly began shooting at the police from his vehicle and tried driving away from the scene.

An officer responded by firing back at Alvarado, causing him to slowly drive onto a private parking lot before crashing into a fence four blocks away. Officers found Alvarado “slumped over with an apparent wound to his head.” The responding officer broke through Alvarado’s window to provide emergency medical attention and found Alvarado’s weapon beside him. There is an ongoing investigation into the shooting.

— Morales, Mia. “MPD: Border Patrol Agent Dies from Gunshot after Officer-Involved Shooting.” ValleyCentral.com, August 1, 2023. https://www.valleycentral.com/news/local-news/mpd-man-leads-police-chase-recovering-after-gunshot-wound/.

— MyRGV.com. “Border Patrol Agent Involved in McAllen Police Shooting Dies,” July 31, 2023. https://myrgv.com/local-news/2023/07/31/border-patrol-agent-involved-in-mcallen-police-shooting-dies/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation

Victim Classification:

May 18, 2023

Border Patrol agents shot and killed Raymond Mattia, a 58 year-old member of the Tohono O’odham nation, while Mattia was steps from the front door of his home in the community of Menager’s Dam (also known as Ali Chuk), Arizona. Three agents, part of a group accompanying Tohono O’odham Nation police, fired their weapons at Mattia, striking him “several times,” according to CBP’s May 22, 2023 release about the incident (original link).

The three agents who discharged their weapons, along with seven others, activated their body-worn cameras during the incident. On June 22, 2023, CBP released the body-worn camera footage from four of the ten cameras of agents present at the scene, including those of the three agents who fired at Mattia (original link). (The video contains heavy profanity and graphic violence.)

This was CBP’s third release of body-worn camera footage since the agency began making edited footage public in April 2023. On May 23, DHS announced the publication of a new policy on body-worn cameras for the department’s 80,000 law enforcement personnel (original links: release / policy). The announcement noted that CBP, which has had its own body-worn camera directive since August 2021, had so far issued 7,000 cameras to its workforce (original link).

The body-worn camera video release showed the agents firing rapid volleys of bullets at Mattia. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report found that Mattia was hit by nine bullets (original link).

It is not clear why police and agents prioritized Mattia’s residence. CBP’s statement reported that agents arrived at the scene upon the request of the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department, to respond to a “shots fired” call. CBP’s video presentation plays audio of a call from Tohono O’odham police informing Border Patrol of a report of shots fired in a general area. The call does not name any person or address. As NBC News coverage noted, “It is unclear how agents determined the shots came from Mattia,” if shots had in fact been fired.

Mattia’s relatives, however, have said that Mattia himself called Border Patrol for help, because migrants were passing through his property. Relatives say they know nothing about “shots fired” in the area that evening, and that Mattia “thought the agents were there to respond to his previous call about migrants on his property,” which is not far from the border, NBC reported. A family member told the Intercept that some migrants had entered Mattia’s home demanding to use his phone, and “he just grabbed his hunting knife and scared them off.”

Soon after, Annette Mattia, the victim’s sister and neighbor, told Arizona Public Media that she saw “a bunch of Border Patrol vehicles drive into the yard.”

She grabbed her phone and called her brother. She told him Border Patrol were all over and asked what she should do.

Laughing it off, Raymond said, Just tell them to go away. Annette told him she didn’t want to talk to them as she watched the agents rush toward Raymond’s yard. He said he’d go out and talk to them.

“Next thing you know, I heard all the gunfire,” she says. “I didn’t know if it was him or not. I was shaking. I was scared. I was crying because I had that feeling that they did that to him.”

The body-worn camera footage showed agents in an agitated state as they headed toward Mattia’s residence, where they arrived about a half-hour after the initial call. The footage, NBC remarked, indicated that the agents “knew Mattia and had pinpointed him as the person responsible for firing shots.” As they search for him, one agent refers to Mattia as “this motherf——.”

As the Border Patrol agents and Tohono O’odham police converged on his house, the video shows Mattia coming outside. Tribal police told him to put down his weapon. Mattia complied, lobbing toward the police a sheathed machete or hunting knife, perhaps the one he had brandished at the migrants who had reportedly entered his home.

Border Patrol agents, shouting profanity-filled commands, then ordered Mattia to take his “hands out of his f—ing pocket.” Mattia, complying, abruptly removed his hand, holding an object down and to the right. Three agents, apparently believing the object to be a weapon, immediately opened fire multiple times, and Mattia fell to the ground. The object in Mattia’s hand was a mobile phone.

Unable to detect a pulse in Mattia, the agents initiated CPR and subsequently called for air life medical evacuation. Because of inclement weather, however, evacuation was not available, and Mattia was pronounced dead. Annette Mattia told Arizona Public Media that her brother’s body remained in his front yard for seven hours until the medical examiner arrived. “We just got to say our goodbyes in a bodybag,” she said.

Family members told the Intercept that they are perplexed about why agents decided to zero in on Mattia’s home. “The dispatcher states that they couldn’t pinpoint where the shooting was coming from, but yet, when they are there at the rec center [where the operation began], they’re coming straight to my uncle Ray’s house, with their guns drawn,” said Mattia’s niece, Yvonne Nevarez.

Tohono O’odham land straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Nation has had an uneasy relationship at times with U.S. border law enforcement. Mattia himself appears to have had a complicated past relationship with Border Patrol. Ophelia Rivas, a friend of the victim, told the Arizona Republic that Mattia “was on the community council of the village and would often speak up about Border Patrol abuses.” The Intercept noted that he “had been outspoken against the corruption he saw on the border, including corruption involving border law enforcement.” Amy Juan, a leader of the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, told the Border Chronicle podcast that Mattia had “been vocal, not just now, but in the past and recently, about the activity happening that he’s seen in his community, namely, involving Border Patrol. Corruption, and being involved in illegal activities there.”

Mattia’s family and friends described him as a “law abiding citizen” who was “not an aggressive kind of man.” On an episode of the Border Patrol union-affiliated podcast, however, National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art del Cueto remarked that Mattia had a prior arrest record.

“Raymond called for help and, in turn, was shot down at his doorstep,” read a statement from family members, which alleged that “improper and unprofessional actions of the agencies involved were witnessed by family members present near the crime scene.”

The agents who fired their weapons are currently on leave with pay, as is standard in such use-of-force incidents. CBP reported Mattia’s death “is currently being investigated by the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and is under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).”

Once these investigations conclude, CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board will review the incident and make disciplinary recommendations, if any. In fiscal year 2021, the last year for which data are available, this Review Board and local review boards declined to issue sanctions in 96 percent of the 684 cases they reviewed. Of the other 24 cases, 11 ended up with counseling for the agents involved, and the other 13 remained under investigation or pending action as of April 2022.

“There’ll be an investigation, an assessment of the force used, and we are going to look at tensions in the community,” Gary Restaino, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, said on June 23. Frank Figliuzzi, a former civil rights supervisor for the FBI in San Francisco, shared with NBC News his belief that the agents may not be disciplined “given that officers were responding to a ‘shots fired call,’ the way Mattia pulled out his phone, and the darkness of the environment, among other factors.”

— “Tucson agents involved in fatal shooting of man, while responding to shots fired call” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, May 22, 2023) <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/tucson-agents-involved-fatal-shooting-man-while-responding-shots>.

— “CBP releases body-worn camera footage from agent-involved shooting on Tohono O’odham Nation” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 22, 2023) <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-releases-body-worn-camera-footage-agent-involved-shooting-0>.

— “Body-Worn Camera Video Releases” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2023) <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/accountability-and-transparency/body-worn-camera-video-releases>.

— “DHS Announces First Department-Wide Policy on Body-Worn Cameras” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, May 23, 2023) <https://www.dhs.gov/news/2023/05/23/dhs-announces-first-department-wide-policy-body-worn-cameras>.

— Alejandro N. Mayorkas, “Department Policy on Body Worn Cameras” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, May 22, 2023) <https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2023-05/23_0522_opa_signed-dhs-policy-on-body-worn-cameras-508.pdf>.

— “CBP Directive No.: 4320-030B: Incident-Driven Video Recording Systems” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, August 6, 2021) <https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2022-Feb/CBP-Directive-4320-030B-IDVRS-signed-508.pdf>.

— “Autopsy Report for Raymond Mattia.” (Tucson: Pima County Medical Examiner, May 19, 2023.) <https://content.civicplus.com/api/assets/7a5f61dd-df80-4f8e-a519-642d767451aa>.

— Julia Ainsley and Didi Martinez, “CBP releases body camera video of fatal shooting of man on tribal land near Mexican border” (NBC News, June 23, 2023) <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/cbp-releases-body-camera-video-fatal-shooting-man-tribal-land-mexican-rcna90872>.

— Lupita Murillo, “Tohono O’odham man shot and killed by border patrol” (Tucson: KVOA, May 19, 2023) <https://www.kvoa.com/news/local/tohono-oodham-man-shot-and-killed-by-border-patrol/article_a09cb84e-f6a8-11ed-a078-63d5074703ec.html>.

— Ryan Deveraux, “Border Patrol Video of Killing Shows Native Man Had No Gun, Complied With Orders” (The Intercept, June 26, 2023) <https://theintercept.com/2023/06/26/border-patrol-killing-raymond-mattia/>.

— Danyelle Khmara, “Family of man killed by border patrol want justice for their loved one” (Arizona: Arizona Public Media, May 26, 2023) <https://news.azpm.org/p/news-articles/2023/5/26/216197-family-of-man-killed-by-border-patrol-want-justice-for-their-loved-one/>.

— Todd Miller, “How Border Patrol Occupied the Tohono O’odham Nation” (In These Times, June 12, 2019) <https://inthesetimes.com/article/us-mexico-border-surveillance-tohono-oodham-nation-border-patrol>.

— José Ignacio Castañeda Perez, “‘We want justice’: Family, friends of Tohono O’odham man protest Border Patrol killing” (Arizona: The Arizona Republic, May 27, 2023) <https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2023/05/27/border-patrol-abuses-decried-by-family-of-slain-tohono-oodham-member/70258069007/>.

— Todd Miller, “The Longer Story of the Border Patrol Killing of a Tohono O’odham Man: A Podcast with Amy Juan” (The Border Chronicle, June 15, 2023) <https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-longer-story-of-the-border-patrol>.

— Art Del Cueto, “Episode 463 – The Magic Wand” (The Green Line, May 27, 2023) <https://www.radiogreenline.com/episode-463-the-magic-wand/>.

— Brenda Norrell, “Family of Raymond Mattia, Tohono O’odham Murdered by U.S. Border Patrol, Plans Protests” (IndyBay.org, May 25, 2023) <https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2023/05/25/18856331.php>.

— José Ignacio Castañeda Perez, “Autopsy: Tohono O’odham man shot 9 times by Border Patrol as death ruled a homicide” (Arizona: The Arizona Republic, June 23, 2023) <https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2023/06/23/border-patrol-shot-tohono-oodham-man-9-times-death-ruled-a-homicide/70351733007/>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: To be reviewed by Use of Force Review Board, Under FBI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Indigenous, U.S. Citizen or Resident

February 25, 2023

Three migrants and a U.S. citizen died in the pre-dawn hours of February 25 in a crash following a Border Patrol chase in Rio Bravo, near Laredo, Texas.

A Border Patrol agent sought to stop a sedan near the site where a remote camera had detected a suspected group of undocumented migrants. The agent “activated his vehicle’s emergency equipment to conduct a vehicle stop,” according to a CBP release. (Original link) “The sedan slowed but then accelerated, failing to yield to the agent’s emergency equipment.”

The agent gave chase, but “reportedly lost sight of the vehicle,” which then hit a speed bump, lost control, and crashed in front of a residence. The car “was airborne when six people were ejected and the car landed on its roof,” according to Rio Bravo Fire Chief Juan González. Video footage obtained by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility showed the Border Patrol agent arriving at the scene of the collision 24 seconds after it happened.

The driver, a 19-year-old male U.S. citizen, and an unidentified passenger were declared deceased at the scene. A male citizen of Guatemala was declared dead at the Laredo Medical Center. An unidentified passenger was declared dead at Laredo’s Doctors Hospital. Border Report reported that the sedan had a total of six migrants aboard.

CBP’s release noted that the incident was “under investigation by Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.” The DHS Office of Inspector General was notified.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Four Dead; Multiple Injured after Driver of Suspected Human Smuggling Vehicle Crashes near Rio Bravo, Texas,” March 10, 2023. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/four-dead-multiple-injured-after-driver-suspected-human-smuggling>.

— Sanchez, Sandra. “U.S. Citizen, 3 Migrants Die in Border Patrol Chase, Rio Bravo Fire Chief Says.” BorderReport, February 27, 2023. <https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/u-s-citizen-3-migrants-die-in-border-patrol-chase-rio-bravo-fire-chief-says/>.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, U.S. Citizen or Resident

January 8, 2023

A series of tweets from the Sunland Park, New Mexico Fire Department reported a late-night single-vehicle rollover crash on the Pete Domenici Highway (New Mexico Highway 136)(original link). It reported two fatalities, and eight injuries, all male, among those aboard the vehicle.

The crash was the result of a Border Patrol pursuit, the Deming, New Mexico Headlight reported:

The Border Patrol confirmed in a statement that its agents initiated a traffic stop shortly before the crash on suspicion it was involved in human trafficking. The agency said the driver lost control of the vehicle “within seconds.”

The suspected smuggling is under investigation by Homeland Security Investigations while the accident is investigated by the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office. The pursuit itself, meanwhile, is under review by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

— SunlandParkFire [@SunlandParkFire]. “At around 11 PM, Fire/EMS Crews Responded to a Single Vehicle Rollover near MM 6 on Pete Domenici Hwy. 8 Male Patients and 2 Male Fatalities. 2 Patients Taken by Air Ambulance to University Medical Center, 6 Transported by Ground to Other Local Hospitals. 2 Patients Critical. Https://T.Co/Cr7fyS9bcT.” Tweet. Twitter, January 9, 2023. <https://twitter.com/SunlandParkFire/status/1612386320919281666>.

— Garcia, Justin. “Two Dead, Eight Injured in Sunland Park Crash.” Las Cruces Sun-News. January 9, 2023. <https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/crime/2023/01/09/two-dead-eight-injured-sunland-park-crash/69792007007/>.

— D’Ammassa, Algernon. “Recent Border Patrol Pursuits Turn Deadly in Southern New Mexico.” Deming Headlight. January 11, 2023. <https://www.demingheadlight.com/2023/01/11/recent-border-patrol-pursuits-turn-deadly-southern-new-mexico/>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult

October 30, 2022

Members of Border Patrol’s SWAT-style tactical unit, BORTAC, shot and killed an individual on U.S. soil near San Luis, Arizona, about 15 miles southwest of Yuma.

A CBP statement claimed that a Border Patrol remote camera operator detected six individuals crossing into the United States, one of them armed with a handgun. (Original link) After BORTAC showed up at the scene, about 300 yards from the borderline, “three agents fired their weapons, striking and killing one of the subjects,” a man, CBP reported. The agency noted that a handgun was found near the man’s body, but did not specify what provoked the agents to open fire.

Agents took four people into custody, and one fled into Mexico. The deceased man was a Mexican citizen, the Mexican consulate confirmed. “The consulate also said in a statement that the man killed was ‘allegedly the guide of the group” that crossed into the U.S.,’ according to the Tucson Sentinel.

The Sentinel added, “This is the fifth fatal incident involving Border Patrol agents in Arizona this year, and one of nearly two dozen use-of-force incidents involving agents in the Yuma Sector… and the Tucson Sector. This includes two car crashes involving smugglers, a shooting in rugged terrain in southeastern Arizona, and an incident near Douglas, Ariz. when an agent stabbed a man twice while grappling with him.”

The incident is under investigation by the FBI, the San Luis Police Department, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The case was also referred to DHS’ Office of Inspector General, and, CBP reports, “will be reviewed by CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board at the conclusion of the investigation.”

— Ortiz, Fernie. “Border Patrol Agents Shoot and Kill Armed Migrant near Arizona-Mexico Border.” BorderReport, November 8, 2022. <https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-patrol-agents-shoot-and-kill-armed-migrant-near-arizona-mexico-border/>.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “CBP Statement on Agent-Involved Fatal Shooting near San Luis, Arizona,” November 5, 2022. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-near-san-luis-arizona>.

— Ingram, Paul. “Border Patrol Agents Shot & Killed Armed Man near San Luis in October.” TucsonSentinel.Com, November 21, 2022. <http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report//112122_bp_shooting_san_luis/>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, BORTAC

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, To be reviewed by Use of Force Review Board, Under FBI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

September 28, 2022

According to a January 10, 2023 CBP release, an unmarked Border Patrol vehicle and state and local police gave chase, with emergency lights on, to a pickup truck that evaded a Border Patrol checkpoint and proceeded at high speed in the vicinity of Uvalde, Texas. (Original link)

“Approximately one minute” after agents reported having “lost sight of the suspect pickup truck,” the truck was involved in a three-vehicle collision near the center of Uvalde.

The truck’s driver, Anahi Ramos, a 17-year-old female Austin resident and citizen of Mexico, and a passenger, a male citizen of Mexico, were killed. Eight other people aboard were taken to hospitals. Drivers of the other involved vehicles were taken to hospitals and “released with non-critical injuries.”

“The prevalence of police chases in the vicinity was a well-known problem in town, according to Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin,” the Washington Examiner reported at the time. “The town averaged two to three chases per day earlier this year, he told the National Review in March.”

The release concluded, “This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Investigations and is under review by the Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was also notified.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Two Dead, Multiple Injured in Three-Vehicle Collision Following Failure to Yield Incident in Uvalde, Texas,” January 10, 2023. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/two-dead-multiple-injured-three-vehicle-collision-following>.

— Giaritelli, Anna. “Uvalde Rocked by Horrific Fatal Crash Involving Immigrant Smuggler.” Washington Examiner, September 29, 2022. <https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/uvalde-fatal-crash-migrant-smuggler>.

— Lynch, David. “Two Dead and 10 Hospitalized after Major Uvalde Wreck, Police Say.” kens5.com, September 8, 2022. <https://www.kens5.com/article/news/local/public-safety/uvalde-police-crash-texas/273-116f152e-b2aa-4874-a6ad-ce0e742764e7>.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico, Teen

July 28, 2022

A Border Patrol and Cochise County, Arizona Police pursuit of a suspect vehicle ended with the pursued vehicle crashing, killing one of the passengers, a U.S. citizen, in Benson, Arizona.

Following an off-and-on pursuit lasting more than two hours, CBP reported (original link):

A Supervisory Border Patrol Agent terminated the pursuit at approximately 3:47 p.m. due to it approaching the city of Benson.

The pursuing agent de-activated his emergency equipment and, shortly thereafter, observed an unmarked Benson Police Department vehicle ahead of him activate its emergency lights in an attempt to stop the suspect vehicle. The Border Patrol agent then reactivated his emergency lights and, almost simultaneously, the suspect vehicle collided with a GMC Yukon near the intersection of SR 90 and Village Loop.

The driver of the suspect vehicle, fleeing at excessive speed, lost control after a tire, damaged earlier by a Border Patrol vehicle immobilization device, came off entirely.

In addition to the deceased U.S. citizen passenger, the driver—also a U.S. citizen—was flown to a Tucson hospital with serious injuries. “Two undocumented migrants” aboard the vehicle were treated for “minor injuries” at the Benson Hospital. The Arizona Daily Star reported in October 2022:

The front-seat passenger in the car that crashed into Lehman died, 67-year-old Donald Childers of Tucson.

The driver, 25-year-old Elanah Tucker, was transported to Banner-University Medical Center in Tucson, with a broken femur. She was later charged with seven felonies, including first-degree murder and second-degree murder. A warrant is out for her arrest.

The driver of the GMC Yukon hit by the pursued vehicle, a U.S. citizen, “was taken to a local hospital with extensive injuries, including a broken femur, tibia and ankle,” the Star added.

CBP reported that the Arizona Department of Public Safety and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) were investigating the crash. “It is under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of Inspector General was notified.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Man Dies in Traffic Accident After Evading Sheriff, U.S. Border Patrol,” August 5, 2022. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/man-dies-traffic-accident-after-evading-sheriff-us-border-patrol>.

— Khmara, Danyelle. “Border Patrol Pursuits, Deadly Crashes Increase in Southern Arizona.” Arizona Daily Star, October 16, 2022. <https://tucson.com/news/local/subscriber/border-patrol-pursuits-deadly-crashes-increase-in-southern-arizona/article_387cbca0-4055-11ed-b05c-7ff78bf37148.html>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: U.S. Citizen or Resident

July 27, 2022

A letter from the ACLU of New Mexico and ACLU of Texas called for an investigation of a July 27 vehicle crash in Santa Teresa, New Mexico that killed two Mexican citizens and injured nine others.

While Border Patrol was pursuing the vehicle before it crashed in the pre-dawn hours of the 27th, the agency reported that it had discontinued its chase, and that the driver lost control, flipping the vehicle. In an initial statement shared over Twitter by Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector chief, CBP had portrayed the incident as agents having “arrived on-scene of a single vehicle rollover accident.” (Original link)

Two Mexican citizen brothers, who were allegedly seeking to smuggle eleven migrants, face federal and state charges as a result of the incident; one said that the criminal organization that hired him had ordered him “not to stop if law enforcement attempted to pull him over.”

Border Patrol agents stand accused of a pattern of engaging in dangerous vehicle pursuits, at times in populated areas, with increasingly frequent fatalities. “There have already been 17 deaths this year due to Border Patrol vehicle pursuits, while there were 23 last year – an 11-fold increase since 2019,” the ACLU letter noted, urging CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus not to allow agents to employ Title 42 to expel any of the “victim-witnesses.”

— Rebecca Sheff, Shaw Drake, “Border Patrol’s Deadly Vehicle Pursuit on July 27, 2022 in Santa Teresa, NM” (New Mexico, Texas, ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of Texas, July 27, 2022) https://www.aclu-nm.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/2022.07.27_aclu_letter_to_cbp_re_santa_teresa_vehicle_pursuit.pdf.

— Cindy Ramirez, “ACLU again questions Border Patrol pursuits, investigations after rollover leaves 2 dead” (El Paso: El Paso Matters, July 29, 2022) https://elpasomatters.org/2022/07/29/two-dead-in-santa-teresa-new-mexico-rollover-crash-after-border-patrol-pursuit/.

— Julian Resendiz, “Cartel to driver in fatal crash: Don’t stop for Border Patrol” (El Paso: Border Report, August 2, 2022) https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/cartel-to-driver-in-fatal-crash-dont-stop-for-border-patrol/.

— “Two die in vehicle accident transporting undocumented migrants in New Mexico” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, August 6, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/two-die-vehicle-accident-transporting-undocumented-migrants-new.

— Gloria Chavez [@USBPChiefEPT]. “Please See Our Statement on the Accident That Occurred This Morning in Santa Teresa, NM. Https://T.Co/Qpfs4cSr0d.” Tweet. Twitter, July 27, 2022. <https://twitter.com/USBPChiefEPT/status/1552320548977291264>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

April 23, 2022

A Border Patrol pursuit, which bystanders estimated to be in excess of 100 miles per hour, ended in the death of a driver in El Cajon, California, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The driver being pursued “lost control, flew off the freeway and went down an embankment, crashing into a tree.” The California Highway Patrol (CHP) “said it was still working to determine why the driver was being pursued. A Border Patrol spokesperson deferred all questions to CHP.”

— Kristina Davis, Natallie Rocha, “Driver dies in crash during Border Patrol pursuit” (San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, April 23, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2022-04-23/border-patrol-pursuit.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation, Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

March 7, 2022

Border Patrol agents’ pursuit of a pickup truck ended in a rollover crash that killed two people and seriously injured four along Interstate 19 in Amado, Arizona, between Tucson and Nogales. (Original link) CBP reported that a Border Patrol agent driving an unmarked vehicles was responding to a camera operator’s report of migrants being loaded into a truck, when the agent spotted the pickup and sought to pull it over. “The driver of the pickup truck failed to yield to the Border Patrol agent’s emergency equipment and a vehicle pursuit ensued.”

The Tucson Sentinel reported:

During the chase, the truck ran off the frontage road, rolled, and smashed into several trees, ejecting people from the bed, said a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The driver and one passenger were pronounced dead at the scene, and four other passengers were transported to the hospital with serious to life-threatening injuries, DPS said.

The deceased driver was a male U.S. citizen. The deceased passenger was a male Mexican citizen. Both died of “blunt force trauma.”

CBP reported, “This incident is being investigated by Arizona Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Investigations, and is being reviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Two Dead and Several Injured Following Rollover Crash Near Amado, Arizona,” March 17, 2022. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/two-dead-and-several-injured-following-rollover-crash-near-amado>.

— Ingram, Paul. “2 Killed in Rollover Crash during Border Patrol Chase South of Tucson.” Tucson Sentinel. March 9, 2022. <http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report//030922_fatal_bp_crash/>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

February 19, 2022

News reporting datelined February 20 and 21 pointed to Border Patrol personnel shooting a migrant to death in an incident on the night of February 19, on a desert trail about 30 miles northeast of Douglas, Arizona. In a February 23 statement, CBP confirmed that as two Border Patrol agents were intercepting a group of migrants, one of the agents followed a migrant who attempted to escape and, “while taking him into custody discharged his firearm fatally wounding the migrant, tentatively identified as a citizen of Mexico” (original link). The agents were later identified as Kendrek Bybee Staheli, who fired the weapon, and Tristan Tang.

On the evening of February 24, the Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff’s Department posted a statement conveying the agent’s claims that 32-year-old Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, of Puebla, Mexico, resisted capture “then ran approximately six feet away before picking up a large rock and turning back towards the agent making a throwing motion with the hand that held the rock.” The agent then “fired his weapon an unknown number of times as he was in fear for his life and safety” (original link).

The agents requested medical assistance and Cruz-Marcos’s body was airlifted out the next day. As of February 24, 2022, the Cochise County Sheriff was investigating the shooting, as was the Pima County (Tucson area) Medical Examiner’s Office. The Medical Examiner determined that Cruz-Marcos died of multiple gunshot wounds. CBP notified the Mexican consulate, which confirmed that the decedent was a Mexican citizen. CBP reported that its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was also reviewing the incident, as would CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

Investigators must determine whether the shooting was truly an act of self-defense or otherwise fell within CBP’s use of force guidelines, which prohibit using firearms “in response to thrown or launched projectiles unless the officer/agent has a reasonable belief, based on the totality of circumstances, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death” (original link).

“There are multiple red flags in this investigation” so far, a February 23 statement from the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) contended. It noted that the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) disclosed on February 19 that Border Patrol had killed a migrant, then “removed that statement in subsequent press releases.” SBCC adds:

Instead of the CCSO processing the scene immediately, they waited a day. Even though the other migrants in the area were taken by agents to a Border Patrol station right away, CCSO did not recover the body of the deceased migrant until the following day. The CCSO does not appear to have collected any forensic evidence at all until the next day, including from the agent involved (clothing, fingerprints, ballistics or any other relevant evidence). Instead, they ceded the incident area to border agents who could have tampered with the scene.

SBCC has spearheaded an effort to shed light on Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs), secretive units that often arrive quickly at scenes of possible use-of-force violations like this one. The teams allegedly have a record of interfering with investigations and seeking to build narratives that might exonerate the Border Patrol agents involved.

In April 2022, the Los Angeles-based law firm Karns & Karns, LLP announced that it would be representing Carmelo Cruz-Marcos’s family in a federal tort claim—a precursor to a lawsuit—against Border Patrol. The claim appears to confirm that a Border Patrol Critical Incident Team took part in the investigation. The Tucson Sentinel reported that SBCC and the law firm “argued that the agents ‘prevented’ Cochise County officials from ‘immediately accessing the scene to conduct their own investigation.'”

The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office report on the incident, shared by the Intercept in May 2022, confirms that a Critical Incident Team was on the scene after the shooting. It also cites an English-speaking migrant who had accompanied Cruz-Marcos. That witness claims that he heard Agent Staheli shout “This is America motherf—” shortly before shots were fired. He also alleged that “Agent Tang had told Agent Staheli ‘it would all be ok and that he had his back.’ Carlos further said he heard Agent Tang tell Agent Staheli that he should say he was attacked with a rock.”

“Witnesses to the shooting say Carmelo was never a threat to any Border Patrol agent,” read a news release from the law firm. “The family is demanding an independent investigation of the incident by the FBI and an outside agency that can verify the evidence and facts.”

In a May 6 letter to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre found insufficient evidence to contradict Agent Staheli’s account of the shooting, declining to move forward with a prosecution.

Five members of the group that traveled with Cruz-Marcos later said they were held in detention for a month and a half as witnesses to the shooting. They reported that CBP did not return their money or identification documents.

— “CBP Statement on Agent-Involved Fatal Shooting near Douglas, Ariz.” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, February 23, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-near-douglas-ariz.

— “Sheriffʼs Office Investigates Agent Involved Incident” (Cochise County: Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, February 24, 2022) https://www.facebook.com/CochiseSO/posts/323152363179815.

— “US border agent kills man on rugged trail in Arizona” (Douglas: Associated Press, February 21, 2022) https://apnews.com/article/shootings-arizona-border-patrols-de7f3334b7a06e422d1a4de77dda1354.

— “Migrant killed by Border Patrol agent in Arizona, sheriff’s office says” (Cochise County: Fox 10 Phoenix, February 20, 2022) https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/undocumented-immigrant-killed-by-border-patrol-agent-in-arizona-sheriffs-office-says.

— Paul Ingram, “Migrant killed by Border Patrol agent died from ‘multiple gunshot wounds'” (Tucson: Tucson Sentinel, February 23, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/022222_bp_shooting/migrant-killed-by-border-patrol-agent-died-from-multiple-gunshot-wounds/.

CBP Use of Force Policy (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2021-Jul/cbp-use-of-force-policy_4500-002A.pdf.

— “Recent Killing By Border Patrol Another Example of Compromised Investigations and Possible Cover-Up” (Southern Border Communities Coalition, February 23, 2022) https://www.southernborder.org/recent_killing_by_border_patrol_another_example_of_compromised_investigations_and_possible_cover-up.

— Paul Ingram, “Family of man killed by BP agent near Douglas demands probe, may pursue lawsuit” (Tucson: The Tucson Sentinel, April 12, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/041222_bp_shooting_probe/family-man-killed-by-bp-agent-near-douglas-demands-probe-may-pursue-lawsuit/.

— Paul Ingram, “Border Patrol’s forensic teams being eliminated after ‘cover up’ allegations” (Tucson: Tucson Sentinel, May 6, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/050622_critical_incident_teams/border-patrols-forensic-teams-being-eliminated-after-cover-up-allegations/.

— Danyelle Khmara, “No charges in fatal shooting by Border Patrol agent in Arizona” (Tucson: Arizona Daily Star, May 10, 2022) https://tucson.com/news/local/border/no-charges-in-fatal-shooting-by-border-patrol-agent-in-arizona/article_00e44308-cfbc-11ec-8249-fb2c6862d456.html.

— “Office Report for Incident 22-03910” (Cochise County: Cochise County Sheriff, March 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22005859-cochise-county-sheriff-investigation-into-border-patrol-killing-of-cruz-marcos.

— Ryan Devereaux, “‘This Is America Motherfucker’: Witnesses Describe Border Patrol Killing of Mexican Migrant” (United States, The Intercept, May 12, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/05/12/border-patrol-migrant-killing-coverup/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

December 12, 2021

A CBP officer fired four times at a Mercedes sedan approaching the San Ysidro Port of Entry “at a high rate of speed” along with a Ford SUV, CBP reported (original link). The sedan collided with the SUV.

Aboard the vehicles were 18 undocumented migrants from Russia. Two occupants of the Mercedes “suffered minor head contusions.” No injuries resulted from the gunfire. “There were 12 people in the first car, including five children ages 5 and under. The second car had six people, including two children ages 10 and 14,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

CBP arrested both vehicles’ drivers, who were also Russian asylum seekers.

As of December 14, CBP reported, the use-of-force incident was being investigated by the San Diego Police Department and CBP’s Office of Public Responsibility. The incident, it read, would also be reviewed by CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

The Union-Tribune’s February 5, 2022 coverage sought to follow up on the investigation:

The CBP Use of Force Policy Handbook says that guns should not be used to stop moving cars [(original link)]. The Union-Tribune asked San Diego police for an update on the investigation into the incident but did not receive a response in time for publication.

— “CBP Statement on Shots Fired at San Ysidro Port of Entry” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, December 14, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-shots-fired-san-ysidro-port-entry.

— Kate Morrissey, “CBP staffs up border line as asylum seekers try to reach U.S. soil by driving across” (San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, February 5, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-02-05/cbp-border-asylum-seekers-cars.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Russia, Single Adult

December 3, 2021

Agents in two Border Patrol vehicles pursued a Ford F-150 pickup truck they suspected of carrying undocumented migrants near Encino, Texas, about 51 miles north of the border. The truck refused to pull over.

Agents alerted Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS, highway police). A DPS officer, accompanied by two Border Patrol agents, deployed a vehicle immobilization device. The driver sought to avoid it but struck solar panels near the roadside and rolled over.

“An occupant of the F-150, a male citizen of Mexico, was ejected from the vehicle when it rolled over,” CBP reported (original link). The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

As of December 6, 2021, the incident was being investigated by the Texas DPS and reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Starr County, Texas Justice of the Peace. The DHS Office of Inspector-General was also notified.

— “CBP statement on death of Mexican man after he was ejected from a vehicle following failure to yield near La Gloria, Texas” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, December 6, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-death-mexican-man-after-he-was-ejected-vehicle.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

October 28, 2021

Five Border Patrol agents pursued three suspected undocumented migrants through a flat field during pre-dawn hours near Eagle Pass, Texas. The migrants “ran from the field toward some nearby thick brush attempting to evade apprehension,” CBP reported (original link).

Agents caught one migrant, but the other two “ran and fell off a steep cliff that was concealed by the thick brush.” One was critically injured; the other, a citizen of Honduras, died on the scene.

As of October 30, 2021, this incident was being reviewed by the Maverick County, Texas Sheriff’s Office; the Webb County, Texas Medical Examiner’s Office; and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The DHS Office of Inspector General was also notified.

— “One migrant dies; a second critically injured after fall from cliff in Eagle Pass, TX” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, October 30, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/one-migrant-dies-second-critically-injured-after-fall-cliff-eagle.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Honduras, Single Adult

September 18, 2021

Border Patrol agents in two vehicles pursued an Acura SUV that circumvented the Border Patrol tactical checkpoint in Deming, New Mexico. The driver “lost control and crashed,” a CBP release reported (original link). “Multiple occupants were ejected from the vehicle, which caught on fire.”

A female citizen of Ecuador was pronounced dead at the scene. At least seven more individuals were hospitalized. One, a male citizen of Brazil, “succumbed to his injuries on September 27, 2021.”

“This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the New Mexico State Police and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator,” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was also notified of the incident.”

— “Multiple migrants airlifted to hospital, one deceased” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, September 21, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/multiple-migrants-airlifted-hospital-one-deceased.

— Bill Armendariz, “1 dead, 9 injured in rollover near Luna County Border Patrol checkpoint” (Deming: Deming Headlight, September 19, 2021) https://www.demingheadlight.com/story/news/2021/09/19/1-dead-9-injured-rollover-near-luna-county-border-patrol-checkpoint/8413349002/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Brazil, Ecuador, Female, Single Adult

April 29, 2021

A Border Patrol vehicle participating in a pursuit of migrants on foot ran over two migrants near Kingsville, Texas. One, an adult male citizen of Honduras, died on the scene.

CBP reported that the two individuals were run over while they “were burrowed” in “extremely thick and tall grass,” attempting to conceal themselves from the pursuing agents. (Original link) “The initial investigation indicates BPAs [Border Patrol agents] were not aware anyone was burrowed in the grass nor were they aware anyone had been run over by a vehicle until informed by a migrant.”

The DHS Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident, which CBP reported was being “reviewed” by the Kenedy County, Texas Sheriff’s Office and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, both of which “responded to the scene.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Honduran National Dies of Vehicle Incident Near Kingsville, Texas,” May 1, 2021. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/honduran-national-dies-vehicle-incident-near-kingsville-texas>.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Pedestrian Strike

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Honduras, Single Adult

October 23, 2020

The New York Times, citing Customs and Border Protection, reported that “Border Patrol agents shot and killed the driver of a car that had been carrying unauthorized immigrants in Laredo, Texas, on Friday, after the car reversed into an agent and pinned him against another vehicle.” Border Patrol acknowledged that an “agent-involved shooting” took place at approximately 10:00 PM (original link).

The agents were reportedly responding to a possible human smuggling incident, along with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) and the Webb County, Texas Constable’s Office.

The Times reported:

Border Patrol agents and officials from Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of ICE, identified themselves as they approached the car, officials said.

But the driver “suddenly accelerated in reverse,” pinning a Border Patrol agent and a person whom he had been interviewing against another vehicle, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

The driver did not respond to orders to stop and “agents deployed lethal force to stop the threat,” the statement said.

The driver, who was not identified by name, died at the scene. The Border Patrol agent, who sustained leg injuries, was taken to a hospital and later released.

Two other people in the car were injured. In a video posted to Facebook, Border Patrol Laredo Sector Chief Matthew Hudak said that “agents from both agencies deployed lethal force so stop that threat.” The Laredo Police Department and FBI, he added, were leading the investigation into the incident. “Agents did what they needed to do to protect their fellow agent and to protect the suspect that was being interviewed,” Hudak concluded.

— Michael Levenson, “Border Patrol Agents Fatally Shoot Driver in Texas” (New York: The New York Times, October 25, 2020) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/us/border-patrol-shooting-texas.html.

— Matthew Hudak, “Initial Statement on an Agent-Involved Shooting in Laredo” (Laredo: U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector, October 23, 2020) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/initial-statement-agent-involved-shooting-laredo.

— U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector, “Agent Involved Shooting Update-Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak” (Laredo: Facebook, October 24, 2020) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=262600961857758&ref=sharing.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, ICE

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under FBI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult