Border Patrol agents shot and killed a gunman in a standoff just south of the border fence near San Luis, Ariz., more than three weeks ago, authorities said.
On Sunday, October 30, a surveillance camera operator spotted six people crossing the US-Mexico border about two miles west of the San Luis Port of Entry, about 15 miles southwest of Yuma. The cameraman noticed that one of the people crossing the border was carrying a handgun, wrote John Mennell, spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection.
The camera operator radioed officers from a Border Patrol tactical unit “working in the area” and relayed the information, Mennell wrote.
At approximately 7:09 p.m., officers encountered the group about 300 yards from US-Mexico City. During the confrontation, three officers fired their weapons, hitting and killing a man, later identified only as a Mexican citizen. A handgun was found near the fallen man, Mennell said. Four people were arrested by Border Patrol agents and one person fled to Mexico, he wrote.
It remains unclear why the officers fired their weapons that night.
Officers from the San Luis Police Department, along with agents from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility responded to the scene. SLPD declined to comment on the incident.
The Mexican consulate in Yuma said the slain man was identified as a Mexican citizen after analyzing his fingerprints. The consulate also said in a statement that the slain man was “allegedly the tour guide” who entered the United States.
The consulate said it was “in constant communication with the investigating authorities to monitor developments in the case” and to work with the man’s family to return his remains.
While the shooting took place in the United States, a source not authorized to comment said the man was killed just south of the border fence. The border near San Luis is largely supported by border barriers, including “double-layered” fencing in some areas, backed up by lights and new sensors. However, some sections have gates to allow access to the fields, and salinity channels pass under the border barrier in some sections.
An FBI spokeswoman said the agency “has no updates to report” and referred Tucson Sentinel to the statement released by CBP on Nov. 5.
This is the fifth fatal incident involving Border Patrol agents in Arizona this year, and one of nearly two dozen use-of-force incidents involving agents in the Yuma sector, which straddles the river. Colorado and includes San Luis, and the Tucson area, which runs from Yuma County to the New Mexico border.
This includes two car accidents involving smugglers, a shooting in rough terrain in southeastern Arizona and an incident near Douglas, Arizona, when an officer stabbed a man twice as he struggled with him.
The shooting is being investigated by the FBI, San Luis Police Department and CBP’s OPR, Mennell said. Along with the DHS OIG, the incident will be reviewed by CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board following the investigation by the FBI and others.
Earlier this year, CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus announced he would eliminate the agency’s critical incident teams, shifting the immediate investigation of fatal and serious incidents from the increasingly controversial teams to the ‘OPR. Magnusthe former chief of the Tucson Police Department, was installed by the Biden administration to help reform the agency, however, on November 12. he quit after being told to quit or be fired.
Review board established after critical report
CBP created the board, known as NUFRB in December 2014, following a highly critical report from the agency’s use of force investigations. In February 2013, the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit research and policy organization with strong ties to law enforcement, assessed 67 fatal incidents involving Border Patrol agents from January 2010 to October 2012 and determined the the agency suffered from a “no harm, no fault” approach that led to “tacit approval of bad practice”.
The group also questioned the agency’s seriousness about incidents of deadly force, writing, “It is not clear that CBP consistently and thoroughly reviews all incidents of the use of deadly force. .”
A year later, a report by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a review board made up of eight senior and retired law enforcement officers, including former Tucson police chief Roberto Villaseñor, showed that the agency still lacked the ability to investigate the agents.
The NUFRB is reviewing cases “that have completed the investigative process and have been denied by a U.S. attorney, state attorney, or local prosecutor,” CBP said, adding that the board is reviewing “whether the use of force is consistent with policy; whether there is potential for misconduct associated with the application of force; and whether lessons can be learned from the incident in terms of techniques, tactics, policy, training and equipment.”
Fatal incidents in Arizona
On a moonless night on February 19, Border Patrol agent Kendrek Bybee Staheli shot and killed 32-year-old Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, who was part of a group of about 10 people who tried to bypass the Peloncillo mountains about 121 miles east of Tucson, where they were spotted by two officers.
Cruz Marcos was fired four times by Staheli during the fatal incident.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Department investigated the incident, along with the FBI and others. In May, the Cochise County District Attorney’s Office said they wouldn’t complain against Staheli. Cruz-Marcos family called for an independent investigation of the violent incident and set the stage for a federal trial.
On May 24, Abigail Roman Aguilar, 32, died after being stabbed twice in the chest. Aguilar became entangled in barbed wire and was taken to a nearby hospital for stitches, but some time after his release from hospital he found himself in an altercation with a BP officer, “during which he was stabbed with a knife”, wrote a medical examiner from the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Meanwhile, there have been two fatal accidents involving Border Patrol agents.
In March, two people were killed and four were seriously injured when a pickup truck being chased by U.S. Border Patrol officers crashed and overturned on the road parallel to Interstate 19. At approximately 11 p.m., a Border Patrol officer attempted to stop a truck traveling north on East Frontage Road near Amado, Arizona and the driver fled. During the chase, the truck veered off the frontage road, rolled and slammed into several trees, throwing people out of bed, an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesperson said.
The driver and one passenger were pronounced dead at the scene, and four other passengers were taken to hospital with serious or even fatal injuries, DPS said. A County of Cochise
In July, a US citizen died in an accident near Benson after fleeing several law enforcement officers, including US Border Patrol officers and a Cochise County Sheriff’s Deputy. The deputy attempted to stop the driver near Tombstone and McNeal, but the driver refused to yield. The deputy “stopped the pursuit due to the driver’s erratic driving” and instead issued a “be on the lookout” bulletin. About two and a half hours later, two Border Patrol officers at a checkpoint spotted the driver and another officer joined the chase in his own unmarked vehicle.
An officer ran ahead and “deployed a vehicle immobilizer,” but despite the spikes, the driver continued north of State Route 80. Another officer also hit the spikes, flattened a tire, and drove off. abandoned the pursuit. A Border Patrol surveillance officer ended the pursuit because it was closing in on Benson, however, an unmarked Benson Police Department vehicle gave chase instead, and the officer watched the suspicious vehicle s crush on a GMC Yukon.
The driver and a passenger in the Yukon were treated at the scene. The driver of the getaway car was seriously injured and was airlifted to Banner University Medical Center in Tucson. A male passenger in the car, identified only as a US citizen, died at the scene. Two migrants who were also in the vehicle were treated for minor injuries.
In September, US Representative Raúl Grijalva and other members of Congress pressed CBP officials to issue new guidelines for officer vehicle chases after an “11-fold” increase in fatal crashes from 2019. In a September 13 letter, Congressional Reps. El Paso – wrote that by Aug. 15, there were 21 deaths related to CBP vehicle pursuits, putting 2022 “firmly on track to be the deadliest year on record” for incidents involving pursuits from BP. Grijalva added that 2022 could “potentially” surpass 2021, when there were 22 “lawsuit-related deaths”, according to publicly available data.