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

Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed, Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico, Single Adult