29 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the accountability status is “Under OPR Investigation”

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.

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.

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:

June 30, 2022

A Border Patrol-involved vehicle pursuit on Interstate Highway 35, reaching speeds of 90-100 miles per hour, ended in a crash that killed four of seven migrants aboard a Jeep Wrangler in Encinal, Texas (original link). The deceased were male citizens of Mexico and Guatemala.

“This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and reviewed by CBP’s OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility],” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Failure to yield leads to fatal crash off Interstate Highway 35 in Encinal, Texas” (Washington: CBP, July 5, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/failure-yield-leads-fatal-crash-interstate-highway-35-encinal.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Mexico, Single Adult

June 15, 2022

The Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times reported on Border Patrol “challenge coins,” available on eBay and elsewhere, depicting with pride the September 2021 Del Rio incident in which mounted agents charged at Haitian migrants on the banks of the Rio Grande.

“Whipping ass since 1924” and “Haitian Invasion,” reads one coin rendering the iconic September 2021 photo of a Border Patrol agent on horseback grabbing a Haitian migrant’s shirt.

These are not official items, and the coins’ tie to active-duty agents remains unclear. “These coins anger me because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.

CBP was investigating the coins’ origin and told the Los Angeles Times that it will send cease-and-desist letters “to vendors who produce unauthorized challenge coins using a CBP trademarked brand.”

Andy Christiansen, a Utah-based vendor, told National Public Radio “that he still has about 20 coins left and intends on putting them up for sale again.” Christiansen said he did not produce the coins: he purchased them as part of a box of coins that was lost or damaged in shipping and put up for auction. Christiansen said that his stock was “flying off the shelf” and that one coin’s auction price rose to $500.

— Michael Wilner, Jacqueline Charles, “Border Patrol Investigating Coin Memorializing Treatment of Haitian Migrants in del Rio” (Miami: The Miami Herald, June 15, 2022) https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article262498842.html.

— Hamed Aleaziz, “Coins Depicting Border Patrol Agent Grabbing Haitian Migrant Trigger Investigation” (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-16/coins-border-patrol-haitian-immigrants.

— Jaclyn Diaz, “Ebay Seller Says Coins Depicting Haitian Migrant Incident at Border May Be Sold Again” (National Public Radio, June 20, 2022) https://www.npr.org/2022/06/17/1105901312/ebay-seller-challenge-coins-border-patrol-horseback-haiti-migrants-mexico.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

May 24, 2022

In circumstances that remain to be clarified, an unnamed Border Patrol agent killed a Mexican migrant in Douglas, Arizona after midnight (original link). Abigail Roman Aguilar, 32, from Chiapas, Mexico, died of stab wounds to the upper chest (“sharp force injuries of the trunk”), according to the Pima County Medical Examiner, which ruled the death a homicide on June 17, 2022. The Medical Examiner’s report also noted blunt force injuries to Aguilar’s head, trunk, and extremities (original link).

The Arizona Daily Star reported on June 18:

On May 24, Aguilar was admitted to the Copper Queen Community Hospital in Douglas with face and lip injuries following a barb wire incident while running from the United States Border Patrol, the autopsy report said. After he was discharged from the hospital, he was reportedly involved in an altercation with a Border Patrol agent, who ultimately stabbed Aguilar with a knife.

The May 24 incident is under FBI investigation, and being reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, after which it is to go to CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board. In an e-mail to the Arizona Republic, a spokesperson for the FBI Phoenix office said only that its investigation into an “assault on a federal officer” was ongoing.

This is the second agent-involved killing near Douglas since February 19, when Agent Kendrek Bybee Staheli shot and killed Mexican migrant Carmelo Cruz-Marcos.

— “Statement-Use of Force Incident-Douglas, AZ” (Tucson: Customs and Border Protection, May 24, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-use-force-incident-douglas-az.

— Clara Migoya, “1 dead in Douglas after ‘use of force’ confrontation with Border Patrol” (Arizona: Arizona Republic, May 25, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2022/05/25/1-dead-douglas-after-confrontation-border-patrol-agent/9926410002/.

— Jamie Donnelly, “Report: Migrant stabbed to death by Border Patrol agent in Douglas” (Tucson: Arizona Daily Star, June 18, 2022) https://tucson.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/report-migrant-stabbed-to-death-by-border-patrol-agent-in-douglas/article_dcf55a68-ef32-11ec-b15a-17f8ed410de1.html.

— Mary Coleman, Tweet from Mary Coleman KOLD @Mary_reports (Twitter, June 17, 2022) https://twitter.com/Mary_reports/status/1537902526128721927.

— Gloria Rebecca Gomez, Angela Cordoba Perez, Clara Migoya, “Autopsy report determines migrant was stabbed to death by CBP agent in Douglas” (Phoenix: Arizona Republic, June 22, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2022/06/22/autopsy-report-migrant-stabbed-death-cbp-agent-douglas/7684477001/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

May 14, 2022

Two CBP officers fired gunshots at a vehicle during a southbound traffic inspection at the Bridge of the Americas port of entry in El Paso, Texas.

“While attempting to inspect a vehicle, a driver made an abrupt movement, at which point the officers perceived a threat to themselves and fired at the driver who fled from the inspection area at a high rate of speed and crossed into Mexico,” a CBP spokesperson e-mailed the El Paso Times.

Mexican authorities later found the vehicle in Ciudad Juárez. The incident is under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

— Daniel Borunda, “CBP officers in El Paso fire at vehicle in border shooting on the Bridge of the Americas” (El Paso: El Paso Times, May 15, 2022) https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/crime/2022/05/15/el-paso-shooting-bridge-americas-cbp-border-mexico/9785893002/.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

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

September 14, 2021

The DHS Inspector General completed an unpublished report, obtained in part and revealed in February 2022 by ProPublica and El Paso Matters, sharing findings about the May 2019 in-custody death of Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez (original link). As the journalistic outlets put it, the victim, a 16-year-old unaccompanied Guatemalan migrant, “died of the flu after writing on the floor of his cell” in the Weslaco, Texas Border Patrol station.

Hernández had a 103-degree fever, tested positive for influenza, and a nurse practitioner had instructed agents in writing “that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.” Only one medical staff person was on overnight duty at the Weslaco Station, which was being used as a makeshift sick ward and had “60-70” flu patients among 210 ill detainees at the time. Agents logged regular “welfare checks” on the boy, but video footage of his cell showed no evidence of checks during a period of nearly four and a half hours.

The log entries were false, the Inspector-General’s report determined. The lead agent told Inspector General investigators that he made hourly checks of the cell, but

added that at that time, it was impossible for him to conduct welfare checks on 300 to 350 detainees every hour. According to [redacted] common practice, Team Leads check the “select all” tab in the [redacted] system and press enter, reporting all detainees received an hourly welfare check.

“Falsifying federal records to impede administration of an agency’s function is a crime,” ProPublica and El Paso Matters point out. “But the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas declined to prosecute anyone in Hernandez’s death, the report said.” The report did not specify whether anyone involved in Hernández’s case had been disciplined. CBP “declined to comment on whether any agents have faced discipline stemming from Hernandez’s death or whether any changes had been made as a result of the inspector general report,” noting that it is continuing an internal investigation of the nearly three-year-old case.

On July 20, 2021, the DHS Inspector-General had reported that, in 98 cases examined of ill people in custody, “CBP could not always demonstrate staff conducted required medical screenings or consistent welfare checks” (original link).

Report of Investigation, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez-Vasquez, U.S. Border Patrol Weslaco Station, Weslaco, Texas (Washington: DHS Office of Inspector General, September 14, 2021) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21196072-dhs-oig-report-carlos-hernandez-vasquez.

— Robert Moore, “Internal Investigation Confirms Border Patrol Failures Leading Up to a 16-Year-Old’s Death on the Floor of His Cell” (ProPublica and El Paso Matters, February 8, 2022) https://elpasomatters.org/2022/02/08/internal-investigation-confirms-border-patrol-failures-leading-up-to-a-16-year-olds-death-on-his-cell-floor/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed, Under OPR Investigation, Unknown

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition, Unaccompanied Child

August 7, 2021

For nearly an hour, Border Patrol vehicles, aided by CBP and National Guard helicopter surveillance, pursued a jeep that circumvented a checkpoint near Tucson.

A CBP release described how this pursuit ended in a fatal crash on a major interstate highway (original link).

With the assistance of air support, BPAs [Border Patrol agents] located the vehicle on I-10. At approximately 7:57 PM, a BPA attempted to stop the Jeep Liberty by deploying a Vehicle Immobilization Device (VID) on I-10, approximately 39 miles northwest of Tucson near Picacho Peak. The driver of the Jeep Liberty lost control, crossed the median and struck a tractor trailer in the eastbound lanes of travel. As a result of the impact, the vehicle traveled back into the median and caught fire. BPAs immediately requested emergency medical services (EMS), pulled several occupants from the vehicle, and rendered aid. There was a total of eleven occupants in the vehicle, to include two unidentified individuals who were declared deceased on the scene.

A third passenger in the jeep crash died after being transported to a hospital.

“This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility,” read CBP’s release. “The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.”

It was the second Border Patrol pursuit ending in a fatal crash in four days. Two people died in a crash following an August 3, 2021 chase in New Mexico.

— “CBP Statement – Three fatalities in Arizona motor vehicle accident” (Washington: CBP, August 9, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-three-fatalities-arizona-motor-vehicle-accident.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult

August 3, 2021

An August 25 letter to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and the ACLU of Texas described an August 3 Border Patrol vehicle pursuit that led to two fatalities in New Mexico.

Early in the morning of August 3, 2021, a Border Patrol agent assigned to the Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S. Border Patrol Station was reportedly patrolling New Mexico State Road 185 approximately six miles south of the Border Patrol checkpoint, which is located approximately 69 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. According to CBP, the agent witnessed a northbound vehicle pull to the side of the road and then proceed north. The Border Patrol agent reportedly followed the vehicle without activating his emergency equipment.

The vehicle reportedly evaded the Border Patrol checkpoint by driving onto the southbound lanes of New Mexico State Road 185 and then continued north, at which time the Border Patrol agent activated his emergency equipment and attempted to stop the vehicle. Another Border Patrol unit also reportedly pursued the vehicle.

Approximately three miles north of the Border Patrol checkpoint, the vehicle crashed. Several occupants were ejected from the vehicle. The agency’s statement simply claims “the driver lost control and crashed,” but does not indicate the location or conduct of Border Patrol agents’ vehicles immediately preceding the crash.

A CBP release, issued two weeks later, reported that one passenger aboard the vehicle, a male citizen of Ecuador, died (original link). The vehicle’s driver, a male U.S. citizen, died of his injuries 12 days after the crash. Eight other passengers were hospitalized.

“This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the New Mexico State Police, and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility and the El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner,” CBP’s release continued. “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was also notified.”

It was the first of two Border Patrol pursuits ending in fatal crashes in four days. Three people died in a crash following an August 7, 2021 chase in Arizona.

This incident would be featured in a January 10, 2022 front-page New York Times story about Border Patrol vehicle pursuit tactics. The Times account included the role of Border Patrol’s secretive Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs), which advocates accuse of having helped to frustrate investigations into abuses committed by agents:

Body camera footage from a state police officer captured one of the Border Patrol agents saying: “Our critical incident team is coming out. They’ll do all the crime scene stuff—well, not crime scene, but critical incident scene.” The agent said that he and his colleague would give statements to the team, which it would share with the police.

On June 7, 2022, the ACLU of Texas and ACLU of New Mexico confirmed that Border Patrol Critical Incident Team personnel were at the scene of the crash within about an hour. Through state-level public records requests, the ACLU obtained the first-ever publicly available copy of a BPCIT incident report. The 162-page document “raises more questions than it answers,” the organization observed (original link). It pointed out several inconsistencies in the BPCIT report’s findings, including its descriptions of the distance at which the Border Patrol vehicle was following, when it activated its lights and sirens, whether “spike strips” were used to disable the pursued vehicle, and even the number of miles over which the chase took place.

The quality of the incident report, the ACLU offices concluded, raises concerns about CBP’s plan to terminate the BPCITs by absorbing their personnel into CBP’s Office of Public Responsibility (OPR) by the end of September 2022. “While OPR is tasked with conducting independent and impartial investigations, confidence in their results is wholly undermined by the involvement of Border Patrol’s CITs as investigators.”

Times reporter Eileen Sullivan identified the vehicle’s driver: 25-year-old Erik A. Molix, who was transporting nine undocumented migrants in a sport utility vehicle. Agents chased him at speeds reaching 73 miles per hour. A Border Patrol vehicle clipped Molix’s SUV, sending it tumbling off the road. Molix’s mother, a 5th-grade teacher in El Paso, found out about her son’s death from a CBP news release. While he may have been doing something illegal, she told the Times, “That doesn’t mean you have to die for it.”

The ACLU’s August 2021 letter called on CBP to carry out “robust and independent investigations” into the pursuit incident, and that the agency publicly release its written vehicle pursuit policy and review whether Border Patrol agents deviated from it during the August 3 chase.

CBP made its vehicle pursuit policy public, in redacted form, for the first time in November 2021 (original link). On May 24, 2022, the Associated Press reported that CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus “developing a new policy for vehicle pursuits with an eye toward increasing safety.”

— Rebecca Sheff, Shaw Drake, “CBP’s Vehicle Pursuit Policy and Border Patrol’s Deadly Pursuit of a Vehicle on August 3, 2021 near Las Cruces, New Mexico” (New Mexico and Texas: ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of Texas, August 25, 2021) https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/aclu_letter_to_cbp_re_las_cruces_vehicle_pursuit.pdf.

— “Smuggler loses control of vehicle while evading checkpoint, causing a death and injuries to ejected passengers” (Las Cruces: CBP, August 17, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/smuggler-loses-control-vehicle-while-evading-checkpoint-causing.

— Eileen Sullivan, “A Rise in Deadly Border Patrol Chases Renews Concerns About Accountability” (New York: The New York Times, January 9, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/09/us/politics/border-patrol-migrant-deaths.html.

Emergency Driving Including Vehicular Pursuits by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Personnel (Washington: CBP, January 16, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2021-Nov/CBP-directive-emergency-driving-Including-vehicular-pursuits-us-cbp-personnel-redacted.pdf.

— Elliot Spagat, “Border agency plans vehicle pursuit policy to raise safety” (Donna: Associated Press, May 24, 2022) https://apnews.com/article/politics-us-customs-and-border-protection-texas-law-enforcement-agencies-694e39abaca42abbee4f1093484b9b76.

— Shaw Drake, Rebecca Sheff, “Border Patrol is Investigating Itself Following Deaths, Report Reveals” (Texas and New Mexico, ACLU of Texas and ACLU of New Mexico, June 7, 2022) https://www.aclu.org/news/immigrants-rights/border-patrol-is-investigating-itself-following-deaths-report-reveals.

Report as prepared by EPT CIT including all facts pertaining to the case listed above (El Paso: U.S. Border Patrol, 2021) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22016802-us_cbp_final_report_redacted.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Ecuador, Single Adult, U.S. Citizen or Resident

August 2, 2021

A CBP statement related the death in Border Patrol custody of a Salvadoran man near Eagle Pass, Texas (original link). The man had become “unresponsive” after being restrained for having reportedly become “unruly.”

The following statement pertains to an in-custody death that occurred near Eagle Pass, TX, on Monday, August 2, 2021. This information is based on a preliminary review and may be corrected or updated in the future. Additional information may also be released by other agencies investigating this incident.

On August 2, 2021, Border Patrol Agents (BPAs) were alerted to the presence of a group of suspected undocumented migrants inside a ranch approximately 17 miles south of Eagle Pass, Texas near Highway 277. BPAs assigned to the Eagle Pass South (EGS) Border Patrol Station responded and began tracking the group of migrants. After approximately nine hours of tracking the group, BPAs located and apprehended seven migrants while several other individuals fled. BPAs continued to search for these individuals.

Shortly thereafter, BPAs apprehended five more migrants, to include a male citizen of El Salvador. The man was initially handcuffed together with two other migrants using two sets of handcuffs. The man reportedly became unruly and was causing discomfort to the other two individuals to whom he was attached. When BPAs removed the handcuffs to separate him from the others, he attempted to escape, running a short distance before being apprehended again by BPAs. BPAs restrained him with his hands behind his back and placed him on the hood of a nearby Border Patrol vehicle. BPAs placed two other migrants on the front bumper area of the vehicle and two in the rear of the vehicle and drove back to the location where the first group was apprehended to await a transport vehicle.

Upon arrival at that location, BPAs removed all the migrants from the Border Patrol vehicle to await the transport vehicle; the El Salvadoran man remained restrained. When the Border Patrol transport vehicle arrived approximately one hour later, BPAs discovered the man was unresponsive. The BPAs began chest compressions and requested emergency medical services. When the Eagle Pass Fire Department arrived on the scene, medical personnel determined the man was deceased.

Consistent with agency procedures for reviewing in-custody deaths, CBP OPR immediately responded to the scene, interviewed migrants involved in the incident, and subsequently notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DHS Office of Inspector General, and the Dimmit County Sheriff’s Department. The Webb County Medical Examiner’s Office and CBP OPR are reviewing this incident which is under investigation by the Texas Rangers. CBP is fully cooperating with all agencies reviewing or investigating this incident.

All CBP personnel involved in the incident have been reassigned to non-field enforcement activities, pending the results of the investigation and subsequent actions that may be warranted. Additionally, U.S. Border Patrol has initiated a full review of their transport and detention procedures to assure they are fully compliant with the CBP Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS) policy.

CBP Statement: Death in Custody at Eagle Pass, TX” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, August 6, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-death-custody-eagle-pass-tx-0.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Single Adult

June 23, 2021

A Border Patrol agent driving a marked vehicle gave chase to a pickup truck spotted loading people near the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas. A Border Patrol statement notes that the agent had lost track of the truck, which later collided into another vehicle (original link):

The pickup immediately left the area at a high rate of speed, causing several people to fall from the vehicle. The BPA radioed to additional BPAs in the area as he attempted to catch up with the white pickup truck.  The BPA lost sight of the vehicle and radioed to other agents notifying them that he could not locate the vehicle.

The pickup collided into a SUV at the intersection of Main Avenue and Jefferson Street, approximately 16 blocks northwest of the BPA’s location. Border Patrol EMTs, Laredo Fire Department Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and Laredo Police Department (LPD) responded to the scene of the collision. No Border Patrol units were pursuing the white pickup truck at the time of the crash. The first Border Patrol unit arrived on the scene within a minute and came from the opposite direction without its lights and sirens activated.

The accident killed three people aboard the pickup truck and injured eight. Border Patrol noted, “This incident is being reviewed by the Webb County Medical Examiner’s Office and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and is being investigated by the Laredo Police Department.”

— “Correction on June 23 Vehicle Accident in Laredo, Texas” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, June 26, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/correction-june-23-vehicle-accident-laredo-texas.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult

June 17, 2021

A CBP release described a Border Patrol chase that ended with a fatal vehicle crash, after an agent deployed a vehicle immobilization device across an Arizona highway (original link).

On June 17, 2021, a Border Patrol Agent (BPA) observed two suspected undocumented migrants getting into a vehicle along Arizona State Route 85 (SR 85), approximately one and a half miles north of the Lukeville, AZ Port of Entry. Approximately 20 miles north of where the suspected undocumented migrants entered the vehicle, another BPA waiting on SR 85, activated his emergency lights and sirens and attempted to stop the vehicle. The vehicle did not stop and continued for approximately one mile, where another BPA deployed a vehicle immobilization device (VID) across the roadway. The driver of the suspected smuggling vehicle attempted to avoid running over the VID and subsequently lost control and crashed.

One of the two undocumented migrants in the vehicle, a male citizen of Mexico, was in critical condition and was transported to the Abrazo West Medical Center in Goodyear, AZ where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries on June 19, 2021.

This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was also notified of the incident.

— “Failure to Yield Results in Death” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, June 21, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/failure-yield-results-death-0.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

June 16, 2021

A Border Patrol agent in Nogales, Arizona fired a 9 millimeter handgun round at a white Kia SUV, striking Marisol García Alcántara, a 37-year-old undocumented Mexican mother of three who was riding in the vehicle’s backseat. Ms. García Alcántara was struck in the head and wounded.

On December 9, 2021, Ms. García Alcántara filed a Federal Torts Claim Act claim with CBP seeking compensation for the injuries she suffered (original link). This is a required step before filing a lawsuit. It claims that Ms. García Alcántara was “unarmed and defenseless, and represented no risk of harm to anyone,” and that she “does not know the name of the agent who employed this deadly force.”

According to the police report, a Border Patrol agent told Nogales police that “all he could say was that they had a fail to yield with the Kia, and one shot was fired. Agent Serrano [Border Patrol Supervisor T. Serrano #N55] did not provide me with further information” (original link).

Ms. García Alcántara disputes whether the vehicle in which she was a passenger failed to yield. “The car was slowing down to comply when she felt a strike to her head,” she told the San Diego Union Tribune.

After the incident, she was taken to Tucson for brain surgery. She spent three days in the hospital, was taken to the Florence, Arizona ICE detention facility, and was deported to Mexico on July 15, 2021. She was not interviewed by any agency investigating her shooting. “No one investigated. I returned to Mexico without making a declaration,” she told the Associated Press.

As a result of her bullet wound, the claim states, Ms. García Alcántara has “bullet fragments… lodged in her brain, with permanent life-long consequences. The injuries included intra-cranial hemorrhage, skull fracture, orbital fracture, with bullet and broken bone fragments entering her left frontal lobe.” The Union Tribune reported that Ms. García Alcántara “said she has dizzy spells, excruciating headaches and memory loss. Doctors also told her she’s at risk of becoming epileptic or suffering from facial paralysis in the future.” The BBC reported that she has problems remembering names and words.

A Border Patrol Critical Incident Team (CIT) and FBI agents later arrived on scene. The agency’s secretive CITs have come under increasing scrutiny since October 27, 2021, when an investigation by the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) alleged that one of their main roles is to gather evidence that might exonerate agents after an abuse occurs. “Marisol’s ability to seek justice, beginning with the filing of the FTCA claim, may be adversely affected by the actions of the CIT,” the SBCC wrote in December 2021.

Ms. Gómez Alcántara was among victims who spoke at a May 2022 SBCC press conference calling for the CITs’ abolition; a May 3, 2022 memorandum from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus terminated the controversial units.

As of mid-December 2021, no information about this investigation’s findings has been made public. “The U.S. government’s decision to release only limited information about her case highlights how federal law enforcement agencies – which have a large, highly visible presence in Nogales – often feel little obligation to explain their actions to the public following use-of-force incidents,” Nogales International stated in a detailed October 2021 recounting of Ms. Gómez Alcántara’s story. The Associated Press reported in December 2021 that CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was investigating the incident, as was CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

On December 23, 2021, a letter from CBP to an attorney representing Ms. García Alcántara requested information and documents about her medical treatments. If the agency does not report on its investigation by June 20, 2022, her attorney plans to file suit in federal court.

“I am asking for justice so they don’t keep doing this,” García Alcántara told the Union Tribune. “I am also asking for a public apology from the person who did this. I’d like to know why he did this to me since I didn’t do anything to him.”

— “Officer Report for Incident 210006105” (Nogales: Nogales Police Department, June 16, 2021) https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4r5dzamxq8fjzon/AABmConSjaFosUR6BRgh88Ula?dl=0&preview=Exhibit+E+-+Nogales+PD+report.pdf&emci=4a0bacf1-b15d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&emdi=50f09884-b35d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&ceid=6137030.

— Eugene Iredale, “Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death” (San Diego: Iredale & Yoo A.P.C., December 9, 2021) https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/alliancesandiego/pages/3292/attachments/original/1639508803/Claim_Form_95_Signed_and_Redacted.pdf?1639508803=&emci=4a0bacf1-b15d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&emdi=50f09884-b35d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&ceid=6137030.

— “Marisol García Alcantara was shot by Border Patrol then deported now filing a claim against CBP” (San Diego: Southern Border Communities Coalition, December 15, 2021) https://www.southernborder.org/marisol_garcia_alcantara_was_shot_by_border_patrol_then_deported_now_filing_a_claim_against_cbp.

— Nick Phillips, “Woman shot in head by Border Patrol seeks answers” (Nogales: Nogales International, October 8, 2021) https://www.nogalesinternational.com/news/woman-shot-in-head-by-border-patrol-seeks-answers/article_0aae589a-2843-11ec-8050-df7bb17fa8bc.html.

— Kate Morrissey, “Woman shot in head by Border Patrol agent files claim for damages” (San Diego, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 15, 2021) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2021-12-15/woman-shot-border-patrol-agent-claim.

— Anita Snow, “Mexican woman shot in head by US Border Patrol files claim” (Phoenix: Associated Press, December 15, 2021) https://apnews.com/article/shootings-arizona-22a67bc78bde39e2087a1d5a6c32097d.

— “Marisol García Alcántara, la mexicana que sobrevivió a un disparo de la Patrulla Fronteriza (y ahora va a demandar a EE.UU.)” (BBC News Mundo, La Prensa Libre, May 11, 2022) https://www.prensalibre.com/internacional/bbc-news-mundo-internacional/marisol-garcia-alcantara-la-mexicana-que-sobrevivio-a-un-disparo-de-la-patrulla-fronteriza-y-ahora-va-a-demandar-a-ee-uu/.

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 FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico, Single Adult

June 10, 2021

Border Patrol agents pursued, for over 34 miles near Deming, New Mexico, two vehicles that failed to pull over. “At that point,” a CBP release reported (original link),

four undocumented migrants jumped from one of the moving vehicles on New Mexico State Road 146. While some BPAs [Border Patrol agents] stopped to render assistance, others continued to pursue the two vehicles which eventually stopped. Both drivers and their passengers were taken into custody by BPAs.

One of the four undocumented migrants who jumped from the moving vehicle, a female citizen of Ecuador, suffered head injuries and was eventually transferred to University Medical Center in El Paso, TX, where she was declared deceased by medical personnel on June 13, 2021.

— “U.S. Border Patrol Failure To Yield Incident” (Deming: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 15, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/us-border-patrol-failure-yield-incident-0.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Ecuador, Female, Single Adult

May 14, 2021

Three Border Patrol agents shot 26-year-old San Diego resident Silvestre Vargas Estrada through the windshield of his car in Campo, California. Vargas Estrada was killed. Two passengers, believed to be Mexican men who had entered the country illegally, were not injured.

A release from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department reported:

Just before 10:30 p.m. on May 14, 2021, agents with the U.S. Border Patrol were involved in a pursuit with a vehicle containing three adult males. The pursuit ended in a gas station parking lot at the intersection of State Route 94 and Buckman Springs Road in Campo. A confrontation ensued, resulting in three agents discharging their firearms. The driver of the vehicle was struck by gunfire. The man was transported by ambulance to a local area hospital. Unfortunately, he was pronounced deceased shortly after arriving at the hospital (original link).

The Sheriff’s Department homicide unit was leading the investigation, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on May 18, 2021. “The FBI, Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility also responded to the scene and will review the investigation.”

It was the second Border Patrol-involved fatal shooting in the agency’s San Diego sector in six months. An agent shot and killed David Angel Villalobos-Baldovinos following a reported altercation on October 23, 2020.

— Thomas Seiver, “U.S. Border Patrol Agents Involved Shooting – Update 1” (San Diego: San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, May 18, 2021) https://www.sdsheriff.gov/Home/Components/News/News/384/16.

— Alex Riggins, “Authorities ID San Diego man shot, killed by Border Patrol agents” (San Diego, San Diego Union-Tribune, May 18, 2021) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2021-05-18/authorities-id-san-diego-man-shot-killed-by-border-patrol-agents.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force, Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult, U.S. Citizen or Resident

April 24, 2021

Francisco Javier Vallejo, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, struck a bicyclist with his car and fled the scene. The cyclist, Humberto Torres Iracheta, 71, was found dead, face down in the roadway.

Vallejo eventually informed his CBP supervisors that he had hit a cyclist. The Rio Grande Valley Monitor reported, “It’s unclear, however, how long it took Vallejo to report the collision.” Vallejo was arrested, the Monitor continued, “and charged with accident involving death, a second-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Vallejo was released the following day on a $100,000 bond.”

— Valerie Gonzalez and Mark Reagan, “Border Patrol agent fled deadly collision with bicyclist; later reported the death” (Hidalgo: MyRGV News, April 26, 2021) https://myrgv.com/local-news/2021/04/26/border-patrol-agent-fled-deadly-collision-with-bicyclist-later-reported-the-death/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Judicial Review, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: U.S. Citizen or Resident

January 29, 2021

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed Diosmani Ramos, a 23-year-old Cuban migrant, as he emerged from the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas.

Helen Diéguez, Ramos’s partner, told Univisión that when Ramos reached the river bank, the agent was pointing a gun at him. “Diosmani grabbed a stone, the officer told him to drop it, and when the young man did not do so, he shot him in the chest.” When Ramos fell to the ground after being shot, the agent “told him again to drop the stone, he did not drop it because he was on the ground doubled over in pain, and then the agent shot him five more times.”

“If what they wanted was to grab him, there were many ways to do it, not by shooting him six times in the chest. That’s why we believe it was murder,” Diéguez said.

“The incident occurred while the agent was attempting to apprehend a subject and the agent discharged his weapon,” a CBP release noted, adding, “The incident is currently under investigation by the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility, DHS Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (original link).”

— “UPDATE: CBP Statement on Agent Involved Fatal Shooting in Hidalgo, TX” (Hidalgo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 29, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/update-cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-hidalgo-tx.

— “‘Fue un asesinato’: pareja del joven cubano baleado en la frontera por un agente de la patrulla fronteriza de EEUU” (Miami: Univisión, February 2, 2021) https://www.univision.com/local/miami-wltv/fue-un-asesinato-pareja-del-cubano-baleado-en-la-frontera-por-un-agente-de-la-patrulla-fronteriza-de-eeuu.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Cuba, Single Adult

November 4, 2020

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed the experience of a Guatemalan man who entered the United States, was detained by an Arizona state trooper, and ended up in Border Patrol custody.

The agents took him to a Border Patrol station. He expressed fear to the agents about returning to Mexico. The agents’ supervisor then said they will decide if they were going to send the Guatemalan man to Guatemala or Nogales. Later, he was taken to the border with a group of other immigrants by the Border Patrol. Everyone was asked to walk across the border to Mexico. He asked the agents why he was being sent to Mexico when he was Guatemalan. An agent hit him with a baton on the knee and threatened to hit him on the head. He was in a lot of pain and his knee became swollen. After that, some other agents came and told him to seek out the Guatemalan Consulate in Nogales and ask about his rights in Mexico. He walked to a park in Nogales, Sonora and slept in a park.

KBI spoke with the local CBP OPR representative on the same day they filed the complaint. OIG had already opened a complaint at this time. An OIG investigator followed up with KBI. Since that date, KBI has not received any updates as to consequences for the officer involved or whether the victim received any recourse.

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, Shared with DHS OIG, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

August 30, 2020

Politico Magazine published an account by Tianna Spears, a Black U.S. diplomat who had been assigned to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez. She described CBP officers subjecting her to regular, blatant racial profiling whenever she crossed back into El Paso. “[O]fficers in primary inspection still made sarcastic comments, cruel jokes and belittling jabs implying I was not a U.S. diplomat, not a U.S. citizen and had stolen my own car.”

One time, an officer told me, which I wrote down: Just because you say you work at the consulate does not mean that you are not smuggling drugs into the country. I asked him to explain.He responded, I don’t know, but I do know what drug dealers and smugglers look like. He stepped forward, crossed his arms, looked at me up and down, and said: You know what I mean.

Spears said that as of August 2020, 18 months after complaining to CBP’s upper management, she got no response to her complaint from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

— Tianna Spears, “I Was a U.S. Diplomat. Customs and Border Protection Only Cared That I Was Black.” (Washington: Politico Magazine, August 30, 2020) https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/08/30/black-us-diplomat-customs-border-protection-cbp-detained-harassed-325676.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation, Unknown

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

July 28, 2020

The libertarian publication Reason revealed a 2012 internal affairs report indicating that a CBP instructor had told “a room full of supervisors” that “if Border Patrol agents feel threatened by a migrant, they should ‘beat that tonk like a piñata until candy comes out.’” The word “tonk” or “tonc” is reportedly Border Patrol slang for an undocumented migrant. Former agents say that the word originates from the sound a human skull makes when clubbed with an agent’s heavy Maglite flashlight.

— C.J. Ciaramella, “CBP Official Allegedly Said Agents Should ‘Beat That Tonk Like a Piñata Until Candy Comes Out'” (Washington: Reason, July 28, 2020) https://reason.com/2020/07/28/cbp-official-allegedly-said-agents-should-beat-that-tonk-like-a-pinata-until-candy-comes-out/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation, Unknown

Victim Classification:

July 26, 2020

CBP reported that Border Patrol agents “observed a suspicious vehicle” near Brackettville, Texas and attempted a vehicle stop (original link). “The driver then attempted to elude agents by fleeing at a high rate of speed,” after which “agents ultimately lost sight of the vehicle,” locating it shortly afterward, rolled over. “The motor vehicle accident resulted in fatalities and serious injuries. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene, but was later apprehended.”

Two people aboard the vehicle died. The Kinney County, Texas Sheriff’s Office posted to Facebook that they “are believed to be illegal alien” (original link).

Texas’s Department of Public Security was investigating, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility had the incident “under review.”

—”CBP Statement On Accident With Fatalities” (Del Rio, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, July 26, 2020) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-accident-fatalities.

Facebook post (Kinney County, TX: Kinney County Sheriff’s Office, July 26, 2020) https://www.facebook.com/KinneyCountySheriffsOffice/posts/738457053578706.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult