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Border Patrol faces increased scrutiny following use of lethal force

The Department of Homeland Security has launched a probe of the Border Patrol agency. Since 2010, Border Patrol agents have killed 16 people. In eight cases the incidents involved rock-throwing.

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Vehicles are parked along the border fence as pedestrians cross the street in Nogales, Mexico in August. The location is near the site where a US Border Patrol agent being pelted with rocks opened fire toward Mexico, killing a 16-year-old boy.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

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A pair of Mexican drug smugglers in camouflage pants, bundles of marijuana strapped to their backs, scaled a 25 foot-high fence in the middle of the night, slipped quietly into the United States and dashed into the darkness.

US Border Patrol agents and local police gave chase on foot — from bushes to behind homes, then back to the fence.

The conflict escalated. Authorities say they were being pelted with rocks. An agent responded by aiming a gun into Mexico and firing multiple shots at the assailant, killing a 16-year-old boy whose family says was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Oct. 10 shooting has prompted renewed outcry over the Border Patrol's use-of-force policies and angered human rights activists and Mexican officials who believe the incident has become part of a disturbing trend along the border — gunning down rock-throwers rather than using non-lethal weapons.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General has launched a probe of the agency's policies, the first such broad look at the tactics of an organization with 18,500 agents deployed to the Southwest region alone. The Mexican government has pleaded with the US to change its ways. And the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has questioned the excessive use of force by Border Patrol.

At least 16 people have been killed by agents along the Mexico border since 2010, eight in cases where federal authorities said they were being attacked with rocks, said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU's Regional Center for Border Rights in Las Cruces, N.M.

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