“Cowboy Border Patrol Shooters”
A San Diego police officer shot and killed a very bad criminal who tried to run him down with a car. Just like in the movies, the officer stepped in front of the criminal’s onrushing car and shot his 15-bullet semi-automatic pistol all 15 times at the driver.
He was placed on administrative leave with pay as normal in an officer-involved shooting. The District Attorney’s office announced that it was a “good shoot” perfectly justifiable because the criminal was attempting to run down the police officer, a narcotics undercover officer.
A week later, the Chief of Police called the shooter into his office and fired him. The Chief, a thirty year long personal friend of this writer, says that the officer was cleared but he had violated San Diego Police Department policy, not by shooting but by standing in front of an approaching vehicle and shooting.
Policy, then, is important to honest law enforcement agencies.
In the past few days, Chief Border Patrol Agent Michael Fisher has released his agency’s 109-page policy statement regarding interaction with people including shooting policies. This release is in response to a privately done non-partisan study of Border Patrol shootings over the past several years of which there were many.
The study was made of 1713 “assaults” by rock throwers at the border, most of which were perpetrated by young Mexican boys on the Mexican side of the border. Agents responded with 43 “deadly force” incidents in which ten people were killed.
Despite “1713” alleged rock throwing incidents, few Border Patrol agents are ever shot at with firearms and fewer still are killed in action. The Border Patrol makes millions of contacts every year, thus ten dead is an infinitesimal number albeit ten more than desirable.
There is, of course, the famous Brian Terry case in which Agent Terry was killed in a shoot-out with armed Mexican bandits in Arizona. The Mexicans were looking to rob Mexican drug smugglers. They were armed with rifles supplied by the United States Government in the famous “Fast and Furious” gun-running case. An Obama-appointed United States Attorney in Phoenix, Arizona ran the operation. Another Border agent was run down and killed by a Mexican drug smuggler in the Imperial County desert just east of San Diego and another was killed with his own gun in the San Diego Mountains east of the city. Over the years, the preponderance of agents who have died in the line of duty died in car or van accidents.
On the other hand, one agent arrested a young Mexican for assaulting the officer who chased him to a fence at which the young Mexican kicked him in the face. The San Diego US Attorney filed felony charges against the Mexican until his court appointed lawyer approached the press and told them that the 6 feet tall, 220 pound agent was kicked in the mouth when the 14 year-old-boy who weighed all of 105 pounds accidently kicked the agent as the agent pulled him off a concrete block wall. Charges were dropped. The agent was humiliated and the boy was given a green card to stay in the US. He is now a citizen.
In another case, an agent at the San Diego- Mexico border shot a twelve year-old Mexican boy through the chain link fence separating the two countries, hit the boy in the back and claimed he “feared for his life” from the golf ball and baseball sized rocks thrown over the twelve foot fence by a number of boys. The boy sued in US District Court and was awarded $400,000 in US Dollars for the unjustified shooting and for the agent lying, as the judge noted (he lied about which kid threw a rock). He was terminated.
Then there is Michael Andrew Elmer who was charged with first degree murder after he shot a Mexican man illegally crossing the border two times in the back. The Mexican bled out after Elmer dragged the bleeding victim into a gully and threatened his partner with death if he told anyone about the shooting. Paramedics were not called. The man died. The partner gave Elmer up 15 hours later. The partner was fired. Elmer was not fired; he resigned from the agency later. A jury found him not guilty because he “feared for his life” from the unarmed victim who didn’t even know Elmer and his partner were hiding along the border. Nonetheless, the family of the victim was awarded $600,000 by the government and insurance companies because even Elmer’s defense agreed that he had violated Border Patrol policy by not identifying himself as Border Patrol before he shot the victim.
Elmer later was charged ten times for illegally shooting at a group of illegal border crossers including men, women and children while he was on duty. He was found guilty and spent 9 months of a 16 month sentence in jail. He is working as a landscaper in Phoenix, Arizona.
Chief Border Patrol Agent Fisher directed that agents must have a “reasonable belief” that their lives, or that of another are “in danger” before shooting and they are to avoid oncoming vehicles; they are to take shelter from rock throwers and not use “deadly force” against rock throwers because they can retreat to a safe distance, rocks not being bullets. No more “stand your ground” against 12 year-old-boys throwing rocks over a border fence.
As it turns out, most “assaults” against Border Patrol agents are more than likely to be like the case of the 14 year old 105 pound Mexican kid accidently kicking the agent than being a “Brian Terry” like-case in which the agent is assaulted with a firearm. Or agents brutally kill someone like Michael Andrew Elmer did one night in the Arizona desert and tried ten more times on another desert night in Arizona.
Contreras lives in San Diego and crosses the border regularly…