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Friday, October 28, 2016

By Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Border Patrol agents have deliberately stepped in the path of cars to justify shooting at the drivers and have fired in frustration at people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border, according to an independent review of 67 cases that resulted in 19 deaths.

The report by law enforcement experts criticized the Border Patrol for “lack of diligence” in investigating U.S. agents who had fired their weapons. It also said it was unclear whether the agency “consistently and thoroughly reviews” use-of-deadly-force incidents.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which had commissioned the review, has tried to prevent the scathing 21-page report from coming to light.

House and Senate oversight committees requested copies last fall but received only a summary that omitted the most controversial findings — that some border agents stood in front of moving vehicles as a pretext to open fire and that agents could have moved away from rock throwers instead of shooting at them.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau obtained the full report and the agency’s internal response, which runs 23 pages. The response rejects the two major recommendations: barring border agents from shooting at vehicles unless its occupants are trying to kill them, and barring agents from shooting people who throw things that can’t cause serious physical injury.

The response, marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” states that a ban on shooting at rock throwers “could create a more dangerous environment” because many agents operate “in rural or desolate areas, often alone, where concealment, cover and egress is not an option.”

If drug smugglers knew border agents were not allowed to shoot at their vehicles, it argues, more drivers would try to run over agents.

The new secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, is “reconsidering the response” to the two recommendations, a Homeland Security official said Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Mexican authorities have complained for years that U.S. border agents who kill Mexicans are rarely disciplined and that the results of investigations are not made public for years. Critics warn that more deaths or abuses are inevitable unless stricter rules are imposed to limit use of lethal force.

“There needs to be a level of accountability if you want to change the culture and the pattern,” said Christopher Wilson, an expert on U.S.-Mexico relations at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington. “People are being killed that don’t need to be killed.”

The review was completed in February 2013 by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit research and policy organization in Washington that works closely with law enforcement agencies. Experts from the group were allowed to examine internal Border Patrol case files on 67 shooting incidents from January 2010 to October 2012.

The authors said evidence in the case files suggested border agents in some cases stood in the road to shoot at drivers who were trying to avoid arrest and who posed no direct lethal threat to them or others.

“It is suspected that in many vehicle shooting cases, the subject driver was attempting to flee from the agents who intentionally put themselves into the exit path of the vehicle, thereby exposing themselves to additional risk and creating justification for the use of deadly force,” the report reads. In some cases, “passengers were struck by agents’ gunfire.”

“It should be recognized that a half-ounce (200-grain) bullet is unlikely to stop a 4,000-pound moving vehicle, and if the driver … is disabled by a bullet, the vehicle will become a totally unguided threat,” it says. “Obviously, shooting at a moving vehicle can pose a risk to bystanders including other agents.”

The authors recommended training agents “to get out of the way … as opposed to intentionally assuming a position in the path of such vehicles.”

They also recommended that the Border Patrol adopt police policies used in most U.S. jurisdictions, which bar officers from firing at a moving vehicle unless deadly force is being used “by means other than a moving vehicle.”

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Too many people allowed to join the border patrol without proper psychological screening results in actions like this.

  • paulyz

    Border agents have been “stifled” to do their job and to stop & arrest Illegals entering the US. This has caused them to be in greater danger and the Illegals know they can get away with intimidating the Border Agents. Many terrorists have entered thru our border as well as violent criminals & drug cartel persons. Our Border Agents need to be able to do what they are there for, to protect American Citizens from the influx of many Illegals.

    • Dominick Vila

      Pauly, the Islamic terrorist that have entered the USA, including the ones that carried out the 9/11 attack, entered via U.S. international passports with student and/or tourist visas. Some studied in our universities (such as the one that learned how to fly at Embry Riddle University). They don’t have to risk their lives or arrest crossing via our Southern border.
      Violence at our southern border is not new, and it is not limited to border patrols. Vigilantes were puncturing plastic bottles filled with water by members of various churches decades ago.

  • Chalrley Walker

    Along the heavily trafficked urban border area — Matamoros, Laredo, El Paso, Nogales, Calexico, San Diego — Border patrol agents are routinely targeted by rock throwers and gunmen. An unseen gunman can sit in a hut east of Tijuana, up near the Otay Mesa and pour AK-47 or 50 caliber bullets into Border Patrol vehicles.
    Demanding these men and women not return fire, even when it is directed at them from within the United States — is asinine to the extreme.
    Even in hot foot pursuit for miles through cactus, unless fired upon, the customs and border patrol agents do not use firearms — unless fired upon or attacked with deadly force.
    Both illegals attempting to find work in the U.S and the drug mules depend upon that restraint by U.S. Border Patrol Agents to avoid death as they attempt to avoid capture –sometimes in days long pursuits through the low deserts and desert mountains of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
    Reality, recruiting and training, upgrading training, installation of high-tech detection equipment at all border crossings, use of computerized information systems and even drone surveillance have resulted in a “NEGATIVE” level of illegal immigration along the southern border in each of the past three years.
    On the other hand — marine transport with small boats landing illegals, even some illegals using personal flotation units to move them ashore from freighters, fishing boats and private pleasure boats results in many thousands of illegal immigrants [The undocumented} coming ashore somewhere along the more than 5,000 miles of unprotected coastline.

    • James Bowen

      Our southern border, in the grand scheme of things, is a very small part of our border security. We need a very, very large coast guard as well.

  • James Bowen

    Border patrol agents should not be restricted in their right to self defense. Their jobs is thankless enough as it is.

    The ultimate problem is that the southern border is such a mess that it has become too much for a border patrol. This is a job for the regular Army.

  • Barbara Morgan

    Sounds like the man that is wanting to be head of the Border Patrol needs work as a Border Patrolman for 6 or months before he gets the headman job. There used to a show on National Geographic that filmed the Border Patrol while they were doing their jobs. One thing I saw more than once on that show when ever the Border Patrol especially if by himself stand out the way of the vehicle the vehicle still tried to run over him or her. These people work in areas where there is no place to take cover so they are suppose let themselves be killed by a driver that tries to hit them even after moving out of the way. Same with the rock throwers no place to hide unless they area which will be taken for weakness by the rock throwers. Even a small rock can blind a person and a large one could kill. Instead of putting all the blame on the Border Patrol for deaths of illegals and rock throwers across the border put most of the blame where it belongs the Mexican government for the lousy economy in Mexico where If remembering right something like 10 people have more wealth than the rest of the people, some of the rich which are drug lords, the corruption in Mexico and parents not teaching their kids right from wrong so they don’t throw rocks. Like all law organizations there is the possibility of people getting in not being suited for the job but from I have read most Border Patrol do their job the right way not the wrong and stop illegals and drugs from entering this Country.

    • Dominick Vila

      Does this mean rock throwers in the Ukraine and Venezuela deserve to be shot by the National Guard, or does is that “crime” limited to our southern border?
      BTW, a large percentage of our border patrol members are Latinos…

      • Barbara Morgan

        Only rock throwing I was talking about was on our Southern borders. Ukraine rock throwers I think was throwing rocks because of clashes between troops of a corrupt President and people that wanted him gone not sure of the whole story as my TV stop working and eye problems limits my reading at the time. Venezuela have no idea. idea why they are throwing rocks there What does their being Latinos have to do with the young people in Mexico needing better guidance like many young people in this Country?

        • Dominick Vila

          Young people in Mexico are not the only ones that need better guidance. Our immigration problems are complex and the result of a number of socio-economic problems, exacerbated by immigration laws that do not object to the entry of potential terrorists into our country, but that makes no provisions to allow the legal entry of farm hands from South of the border. That is why they need to be changed. In any case, the issue should not be trivialized or exaggerated by introducing arguments such as young Mexicans throwing rocks at our border patrolmen. Such thing may happen every once in a while, but it is not the norm. I lived in Barstow, California, for 9 years and had an opportunity to interact with many Latinos, some of them illegals. I also traveled frequently to El Paso, on my way to the White Sands Missile range, and had an opportunity to witness our border problems first hand. Our illegal immigration problem must be resolved, not the way Reagan did when he granted amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants in 1986, but permanently, and that requires more than an increase in the number of border patrolmen. We must determine the root cause of the problem, and starting with a thorough review of our outdated immigration laws is a good start. The problem is not limited to the number of people who are in the USA illegally, we must deal with the influx of more immigrants to put an end to this problem.

          • Barbara Morgan

            As I have posted in replys to you before I do not agree with the President’s immigration reform plan , the only thing I have disagreed with him about. Because I don’t care what Country they come from be south of the border, north of the border or anywhere from overseas, I do not believe that people who are trying to enter our Country legally should be put on the back burner so the millions that here illegally can be given a path to citizenship. Also that most illegals will do the same thing as they did when Reagan gave illegals amnesty they will not do anything to get on the path to citizenship, wii not pay the money they would have to get on that path will hide in the shadows deeper than they do now. I have heard young Hispanics brag about being here illegally, and that they came to just make money and in the hopes to overrun the Country and take back the lands the Gringo’s stole from Mexico. They were speaking in both languages English and Mexican and didn’t care who heard them. They don’t want citizenship they just want the money they can make here, they really wanted citizenship they wouldn’t have their pictures taken like they did in Arizona waving the Mexican Flag while walking all over American flags, putting their smokes out on the American flag and cleaning the bottom of their shoes and other things disrespecting the flag and this Country. People that want to become US citizens don’t wave the flag of their homeland and disrespect our flag. I taught US history to several groups of legal immigrants who were getting ready to take their citizenship test, many from South of Border, they did not wave the Mexican flag but our flag. Some it taken them over ten years to get in because they were not scholars etc.. As for the rock throwing in any Country in the World but the USA throwing rocks across a border at law enforcement would be consider an attack against the Country and handled as such.

          • Dominick Vila

            I agree with much of what you said, but bear in mind that the immigration reform that is being debated is unlikely to include a path to citizenship. The most likely outcome is permanent resident status, something similar to the old green card system of yesteryear, which allows foreigners to live, work, and pay taxes in the USA without ever being eligible to become citizens. The Mexicans and Central Americans that entered the USA illegally do live in the shadows, often in hiding, and seldom take advantage of any of our social programs because of fear of being apprehended. The five million illegal immigrants that were granted amnesty by President Reagan, and the Cuban that were granted asylum and a path to citizenship by President Reagan, don’t live in the shadows. Many have become prosperous members of our society and their children are American citizens with the same privileges and rights as everyone else. The problem is that when Reagan granted them amnesty/asylum he encouraged many others to follow their example. In effect, Reagan kicked the can down the road and we are now, once again, dealing with the same problem that existed 3 or 4 decades ago. If there is demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labor we must change our immigration laws to ensure immigrants can enter the country legally to satisfy our needs. If there is no demand for such labor skills because there are plenty of Americans willing to do that kind of work government, at all levels, should start fining and eventually closing businesses that hire illegal immigrants. If the latter was implemented, illegals would leave voluntarily. Unfortunately for us, the agricultural sector, garment industry, hospitality industry and a few others benefit from the situation and are not interested in illegal immigrants becoming legal residents. That is the conundrum our elected officials are dealing with. which is exacerbated by ethnic and cultural hatred.

            Subject: Re: New comment posted on Border Patrol’s Use Of Deadly Force Criticized In Report