OPR Once Again Covers Up Border Patrol Misconduct in Horse Patrol Investigation

While Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus would like Americans to know that he is dedicated to transparency and that CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) conducted a thorough and independent investigation into the Del Rio Border Patrol Horse Patrol Unit and their actions against Haitian asylum seeking families on September 19, 2021, I am here to tell you that is not the truth.


The first response to a critical incident such as this is that the Del Rio Border Patrol Critical Incident Team (CIT) is called to respond to gather evidence. Although Magnus has ordered these unauthorized and illegal teams to disband by October of 2022, this incident occurred before his directive was issued. These BPCITs, as they are commonly called, have zero authority to act as investigators and have over the last 35 years ensured that few agents are ever held accountable for their misdeeds. CITs do this by acting as first responders to critical incidents getting to the scene long before the actual investigators arrive and destroying incriminating evidence against agents. For references on how CITs work, see this article and this one.


Whether the Del Rio CIT responded or not is unknown because there is no mention of their actions in this report. Normally, when a critical incident like this occurs, OPR will use CIT as their evidence collection team. There is also no mention of SIRs in this OPR report. SIRs are Serious Incident Reports that are required to be filled out in every incident that results in death, legal disputes or any incidents that cause media attention to the agency, which this incident would qualify for.


Timeline of incident:


Video footage shows that although 200-300 migrants may have been present at the beginning of the operation, by the time the agents began the infamous scene that was caught on film there were only about a dozen migrants left at the ramp. As the drone gets closer in the video, other agents on horses can be seen watching as the agents attacked the migrants. These agents circled in the still photo below never responded to the ramp as they watched the incident. This means they did not believe their fellow agents were in danger.


Agents interviewed claimed they were outnumbered and in fear of the migrants getting too close to their horses, but the video clearly shows the migrants were trying to stay clear of the horses. This was also the excuse they gave for why they had to swing their split reins and yell abusive and degrading language at them, but the video shows this is a lie. Some agents claimed the migrants were putting DPS officers in danger, but as the pictures clearly show, those DPS officers stood in the same position and watched as the agents went after the families.



When questioned if they were trying to turn the migrants back after they had already set foot on US soil, the agents denied this because they knew that was illegal. The video and audio shows they were clearly trying to make the families return to Mexico. Turning back migrants who enter without inspection and without processing them is illegal. This is just one of the crimes agents attempted to commit. While they deny this, it is clear that an agent on a brown horse is pointing and yelling at migrants to return.


This video by "AJ+" of the incident shows agents were trying to get the Haitian migrants to go back to Mexico and that they lied to federal investigators when interviewed. Below is a still from the video. Agents pointed to Mexico several times and ordered migrants in Spanish and English to illegally leave US soil without processing and illegally re-enter Mexico. As the OPR report pointed out, this is a serious felony.



Here you can see a different agent on a white horse arguing and pointing to Mexico.



It is unclear why the violence and threats of force began once the ramp was mostly cleared. As a former investigator, as a former Senior Patrol agent, I find it bizarre this was never asked or answered by OPR investigators. According to the video evidence, it is the agents who began assaulting the migrants by charging them with their horses. At this point, the agents are using or trying to use force to control where the migrants are going.



It would seem that the agents were tired of yelling for this small group to return to Mexico, and that is actually why this all started. It was the agent on the brown horse who yelled in Spanish and English for them to return to Mexico that began charging migrants with his horse as DPS watched.


Migrants begin running as agents turned their horses from the river to chase the few migrants left on the ramp. The press stayed in the middle of river while TX DPS continued to watch.


The Haitian man arguing with the agent on the white horse begins to run when he sees other agents attacking and charging migrants.


Now we see where the agent grabs the migrant's shirt and tries to hold onto him on the left side of the picture. The agent on the white horse chases after the man he was arguing with as TX DPS continue to watch.


Here the agent on the white horse is chasing migrants and nearly runs over this mother and child.



Mother and child run and just barely get away from the horse's hooves.


The agents are the ones who began attacking the migrants. The agents are the ones who unnecessarily and unjustifiably used force by charging their horses at the Haitian families and ordering them back to Mexico. This is why this happened; the families would not go back to Mexico like the agents were telling them to. That is clearly what this drone footage shows when you view it with the AJ+ video.


CBP OPR investigation:


Contrary to CBP Commissioner Magnus' claims, this investigation is not transparent or independent. As usual, CBP OPR failed to list the names of the agents involved. There is nothing in the report about investigators researching if these particular agents have had prior allegations of using their reins to threaten or hit migrants. No mention of if these particular agents have prior allegations. This is important because horse patrol agents do often use their split reins to whip at migrants. I have witnessed this many times as an agent. There are even federal cases involving horse patrol agents whipping and then shooting migrants when they try to escape the beatings. (See the Jesus Castro-Room case 4:12-cv-00041-JAS)


It is important to note that CBP OPR investigators are often times ex-Border Patrol/CBP agents. When DHS and CBP were created after 9/11. Border Patrol began encouraging its senior agents to join not only OPR but also OIG. It is common for cases involving agents to be investigated by their former colleagues.


An example of this rigging of the system can be seen in the Carlos La Madrid killing. Border Patrol shot La Madrid as he was climbing the wall to return to Mexico after he crashed a truck with marijuana in it on the border. Yes, La Madrid was a drug smuggler, but this did not give the agent the right to shoot him in the back and kill him. Border Patrol agent Michael Presnall worked with his colleagues on the La Madrid scene when it happened as a Border Patrol agent. He then resigned and entered the OIG training to become an investigator, returned to the area where La Madrid was killed, was assigned as the investigator and conveniently cleared his former colleagues of any wrong doing. (See federal case 4:12-cv-00370-JAS)


It is not a coincidence that no agent has ever been held accountable for killing a migrant while on duty. Agents are rarely if ever found to have even violated a policy, and when they do, they are rarely ever punished. The fact that this report has the names of agents and the investigators involved redacted is not transparent and not ethical.


This article about McAllen, Texas' DHS OIG is a great example of how poorly run investigations into CBP and Border Patrol are conducted and how rigged the oversight agencies like OIG and OPR are. Investigators who are former agents often do not even bother to investigate. Cases sit around for years until they finally issue a report that is both vague and lacking in any evidence that clears the agents involved. Some former agents who have turned into OIG and OPR investigators have been found to give current Border Patrol agents they are investigating tips on what to say so that they have cause to close the case with findings that support the agency and the agents.


I have never seen an investigation that did not interview the victims unless they were dead. Never. Not even in the Border Patrol. Normally, the illegal CIT unit attends these interviews with the investigators so they can then report to the chief what evidence the cops have on their agents. This helps them create excuses and reasons for their actions and gives management a way to have a press strategy. Nobody stresses too much about what the migrant victims or witnesses say because CIT has made sure to put them all in the same vehicles and cells so that their testimony is now suspect and that is what they will use in court to defend themselves, but usually, the migrants are at least interviewed.


OPR investigators and Border Patrol further claimed there were so many people that they could not find the victims. I find this unbelievable. The victims are on video and in still camera shots. Every one of the victims were in Border Patrol custody. They were then put on a plane or bus to another sector for processing. Every agent processing should of had these pictures to identify those involved in the incident. This is basic police work. Besides, the Haitian Bridge Alliance managed to find victims but the Border Patrol and OPR could not. You should also know that Haitian Bridge Alliance attorneys made victims available for investigators to interview but OPR agents refused to interview the victims.


If the Border Patrol cannot even locate people they have pictures and video of who are in their custody, then why are we expecting them to locate dangerous criminals in the wilds of the vast southern border. This is beyond ludicrous, beyond ridiculous and simply outright corruption to not interview the witnesses.


Conclusions:


It is clear that the CBP OPR report on the Del Rio Horse Patrol and Haitian migrants incident is not independent nor complete.


  • Agents involved were not interviewed until months after the incident. This allowed them to speak with each other and view video footage to get their stories straight before being interviewed. This is not in accordance with normal investigative procedures. If you or I committed a possible crime, we would not be allowed to make investigators wait for months before being interviewed.

  • Agents are seen and heard on video easily found on Youtube trying to force migrants to turn back after reaching US soil and illegally re-enter Mexico. This is illegal. The claim by OPR investigators that because no migrant was actually forced to return to Mexico, it did not count. I disagree. The agents were clearly trying to force the group to return to Mexico. The agents know this is not legal. Whether they succeeded at this or not is irrelevant. That an agent would order and try to force a migrant to commit a crime is repulsive and against the law.

  • Migrants were allowed to cross back and forth without interference and many in this group were returning with food and water which was being allowed by the Border Patrol.

  • TX DPS cannot legally prevent people from entering the US. The Border Patrol agents on the horse patrol unit admitted they were ordered to allow them to enter and not to try and stop them. Agents also know it is illegal to turn back migrants without processing.

  • Agents used force when they began ordering migrants to break the law and turn back, they further used force when they began charging the migrants with their horses.

  • Whether or not the agents actually hit the migrants with their reins or not does not matter in the eyes of the law. Attempted assault is a crime whether in a police uniform or not. The fact of the matter is the agents used force when it was not necessary. They used their horses against migrants and children. If OPR had interviewed the victims, they would have discovered that they were afraid the agents were trying to beat them with their reins and run them over with their horses as they testified in court documents. That is an attempted assault when there is no evidence of the agents lives being in danger.

  • The communications excuse is moot. It does not matter if agents had communication with their supervisors or not. The Haitians were allowed to cross back and forth freely. They allowed over 200 ahead of these last 11 or 12 to cross and return to camp. Whether there was communication or not, it is against policy to use force or threaten to use force to return a migrant on US soil without processing.

  • It is also against policy and the law to use force or threaten to use force when migrants have given no indication that they are violent or interested in hurting these agents. Even the their fellow horse patrol agents sat on the hill watching as this unfolded and did not respond because there was no threat to the agents. Like the TX DPS, they watched with out coming to help the agents involved.

It is obvious that CBP OPR failed to properly investigate this incident. I cannot even fathom what made Commissioner Magnus think this report was complete without even attempting to interview victims, especially after attorneys made victims available to investigators. This investigation is a coverup and everyone involved should be investigated by the FBI and or Congress. It is past time to stop these rigged and corrupt investigations in CBP and Border Patrol.