On March 14, 2023, the U.S. Border Patrol pursued a vehicle that agents suspected of smuggling undocumented persons. When the pursuit came to a stop, one agent jumped from his service truck, put his gun to the driver's head and pulled the trigger killing him instantly. The following are my professional observations as a former Senior Patrol Training Agent and Acting Supervisory Border Patrol Agent.
As noted in the Border Patrol's press release, the agency claims that a remote camera operator "observed multiple suspected undocumented migrants load into a BMW sedan" near the Sasabe, AZ port of entry at approximately 6:18 p.m. Sixteen minutes later, two agents saw a BMW sedan and attempted to stop it on State Route 286 near mile marker 12. Seven minutes after initiating the pursuit the driver stopped on a dirt road and became stuck with heavy brush in front of him and Border Patrol service vehicles behind him.
The lead agent in the pursuit was wearing a body camera. This video evidence was released April 13, 2023 a month after this incident occurred. The video evidence shows that the BMW was sandwiched in between the brush and the agent's truck. The agent is seen jumping from his truck, running up to the BMW and using his collapsible steel baton to break both the back window and the front driver's window. This is a common tactic Border Patrol agents use to intimidate and scare migrants and drivers.
The tactic of breaking out someone's windows is not one that Border Patrol policy or training condones. This tactic is only to be used during a rescue but is often taught in the field by reckless agents who enjoy creating fear in migrants. The unauthorized use of this tactic was used in the Tachiquin case in San Diego in 2012. Just as Ms. Tachiquin became frightened when her window was shattered and hit the gas, so did the driver of this BMW. And just like Ms. Tachiquin, who was also a U.S. citizen, the agent in this case used the fear that he created by busting out the windows to then escalate and justify his use of deadly force. Border Patrol agents often break out suspected smugglers' windows with their batons to escalate the use of force and to frighten people. It is a scare tactic and creates absolute terror in the people occupying the car as they have no idea if they are being shot at and often panic and hit the gas to escape the violence.
This is a violation of use of force and a violation of Border Patrol policy.
After breaking the BMW driver's window, the driver hits the gas and goes into reverse as expected. The agent is still standing at the driver's window and is not in danger of being run over. He then grabs the driver's left forearm and hangs onto the driver as the BMW is backing up. The driver's left hand is holding a black cell phone. At any point, the agent could have backed away and held the man at gunpoint. Instead, the agent continues holding the driver's forearm as the driver puts the BMW back into drive using his right hand and tries to go forward to escape this crazed agent. The agent then suddenly pulls his service weapon and fires point blank at the driver killing him instantly.
This killing is a use of force violation. The agent's life was not in danger. The agent did not even determine if this is the same car that was seen by the camera operator according to reports. The agent never even determined citizenship of the occupants of the vehicle before using force. Even the Border Patrol Use of Force Manual states: "Fleeing Subjects: Deadly force shall not be used solely to prevent the escape of a fleeing subject. However, deadly force is authorized to prevent the escape of a fleeing subject where the LEO has a reasonabe belief that the subject poses a significant threat of death or serious physical harm, to the LEO or others and such force is necessary to prevent escape. [Section VI(A)(2)(a)]
The BMW was not about to run over the shooting agent or the other agent in the second vehicle. Secondly, there was a passenger in the front seat and people sitting in the back seat. The only lives in danger were the people inside the BMW who were merely suspected of being undocumented and the other U.S. citizen passenger in the front who fortunately was not shot. Being present in the U.S. and undocumented is an administrative immigration violation and not a dangerous or violent felony. Furthermore, the agent could have killed or injured everyone else. Even if the camera operator saw these suspected undocumented migrants actually cross the border illegally, which the report does not state they did, this does not rise to the level of use of force this agent used.
Additionally, in slowing down the video and pausing it, you can see that the other agent involved in the pursuit is in front and to the side of the BMW when the firing agent shoots. In fact, the shooting agent's gun at one point is aimed in the direction of his fellow agent just before he kills the driver.
I personally have never seen a vehicle stop conducted in such an unsafe and unprofessional manner. If a trainee of mine did this, I would have recommended that agent be fired. This agent's only reasonable suspicion that the occupants of this BMW were undocumented was that a camera operator saw people getting into a car. Chances are that they were undocumented, but even if they were, the failure to yield for agents does not justify the terror tactic of busting out windows with a steel baton. It does not justify deadly use of force and certainly does not justify the reckless disregard of agency policy and commonsense that this video clearly demonstrates.
This agent will likely never be held accountable as the CBP press release said CBP-Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was on the case. This means the former illegal and secret Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams that were recently disbanded and legalized under CBP-OPR will be up to their usual antics of obstructing justice and ensuring neither the agent nor the agency will be held to account. Remember that CBP-OPR has been accepting the work of the BPCITs for two decades and that not a single agent has ever been held accountable.
This is just one example of how Border Patrol agents are trained to escalate to the point of trying to justify deadly use of force. To see the full video, click here.