On February 6, 2023, at approximately 12:05 a.m., a black GMC Yukon SUV approached the U.S. Border Patrol immigration checkpoint located near mile marker 26 on State Highway 185, approximately 23 miles northwest of Las Cruces, N.M. The vehicle stopped at the primary inspection point and a Border Patrol agent approached the vehicle. While inspecting the vehicle, the agent noticed multiple people laying on the floorboard of the vehicle. The agent suspected the individuals laying on the floorboard of the vehicle might be undocumented migrants.
The agent retrieved a vehicle immobilization device which he had earlier placed on a jersey barrier. As the agent reapproached the vehicle with the immobilization device, the driver of the vehicle accelerated and quickly drove away from the inspection area, before the immigration inspection was completed. As the vehicle was leaving the primary inspection point, the agent placed the vehicle immobilization device in front of the driver’s side rear tire, and the tire rolled over the left device.
The Border Patrol agent motioned to another agent, who was staged in a vehicle at the checkpoint, indicating to the staged agent that the SUV fled from the checkpoint during the inspection. The staged agent left the checkpoint in an attempt to catch up to the SUV. In addition, a second agent ran to a nearby Border Patrol vehicle and also drove northbound to attempt to catch up to the vehicle.
Approximately .55 miles north of the checkpoint, the agents encountered a large cloud of dust that covered both sides of the road, and determined the SUV drove off-road but could not see the vehicle. The agents continued north on the highway in search of the vehicle. One of the agents then turned back south toward the area where the cloud of dust was located and found the SUV, which had been involved in a single vehicle rollover. Agents notified El Paso Sector Communications and requested emergency medical services to respond to the scene of the collision. Agents located occupants from the vehicle and rendered aid.
American Medical Response responded to the scene at 12:26 a.m. and transported three injured migrants to Mountain View Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM. Another migrant was transported to the medical center by a Border Patrol agent, in a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle and an additional migrant was transported in a Native Air Ambulance helicopter to the University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. A sixth migrant, later identified as a female citizen of El Salvador, was declared deceased at the scene by New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator personnel.
CBP Office of Professional Responsibility special agents responded to the scene along with Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office deputies and New Mexico State Police. The scene of the collision was approximately 962 yards north of the Highway 185 checkpoint. An examination of the scene revealed that the SUV left approximately 269 feet of tire marks prior to leaving the roadway. The vehicle then flipped and rolled approximately 118 feet and came to rest east of Highway 185.
CBP Office of Professional Responsibility special agents interviewed four of the migrants involved in the incident. One of the migrants stated that he was hiding on the floorboard of the vehicle, when the driver stopped at the checkpoint. The migrant stated the driver stopped for approximately five seconds before leaving the checkpoint at a high rate of speed. The migrant stated he looked at the speedometer and watched it accelerate from 60-80 miles per hour. The migrant stated he remembered seeing flashing lights just before the vehicle rolled over. Each of the other migrants interviewed stated the driver of the SUV left the checkpoint at a high rate of speed; however, none of the other migrants recalled seeing any emergency lights prior to the vehicle rolling over.
Special agents interviewed the agent who was working the primary inspection area at the time of the incident. The agent stated that prior to the SUV’s arrival to the primary inspection point he placed the vehicle immobilization device on the jersey barrier, close to the primary inspection point, because they have had a frequent occurrence of vehicles fleeing from the checkpoint. When he saw the people on the floorboard of the vehicle, he felt the driver of the vehicle might try to flee the checkpoint. The driver accelerated as he turned to retrieve the device and the agent placed the device in front of the rear tire as it left the primary inspection area. The agent stated he could hear air leaving the tire as the vehicle left the checkpoint.
Special agents interviewed the agents who followed northbound in Border Patrol vehicles after the SUV fled the checkpoint. Each of the agents stated they followed north to search for the vehicle once they were alerted that the SUV fled the checkpoint. Once they came upon a giant dust cloud they continued to search for the vehicle northbound on Highway 185. One of the agents then turned southbound on 185 and found the SUV in the area of the dust cloud.
Special agents reviewed radio communications related to the incident. An analysis of the radio communications revealed a 20 second lapse between the time a Border Patrol agent broadcasted that a vehicle fled the checkpoint and acknowledged the use of the vehicle immobilization device and the time the agent searching for the SUV came upon the dust cloud.
Special agents reviewed video footage captured from the Highway 185 checkpoint. The video captured the interaction between the agent and the driver of the SUV. The video captured the SUV stopping at the primary inspection area for approximately eight seconds before accelerating away from the checkpoint. A second camera at the checkpoint reveals the agents left the checkpoint approximately 16 seconds after the SUV fled the checkpoint.
CBP served all of the injured migrants with a notice to appear for an immigration hearing and released them from CBP custody on February 8. The last injured migrant was also released from University Medical Center on February 17.
This incident is under investigation by Dona Ana Sheriff’s Office and under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was also notified of the incident.