April 7, 2016, use of force incident near Arizona City, AZ
On April 7, 2016 two Border Patrol agents from the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Team (BORTAC) were working as a surveillance team (in conjunction with other BORTAC teams) near Arizona City, AZ. The weather conditions were poor, marked by high winds and dust during the incident.
Prior to the start of the Agent’s shift, CBP had received information that numerous suspected drug traffickers were using the area as a thoroughfare for smuggling drugs. As an interdiction team, three BORTAC agents were assigned as a perimeter team with all-terrain vehicles, while four other Border Patrol agents were positioned as an arrest team to wait for the smugglers to arrive.
One agent from the surveillance team (“Agent B”) was using a thermal imaging scope to assist with night vision and observed 11 suspected drug smugglers, 10 of whom were carrying backpacks and all of whom were walking towards the arrest team. As the group got closer, the arrest team deployed a flash-bang grenade as a disorienting tactic. The suspected smugglers dropped their packs and scattered in different directions. One of the suspected smugglers then fired a handgun in the direction of the arrest team, which did not return fire.
Agent B ordered the other agent on the surveillance team (“Agent A”) to help the arrest team apprehend the suspected drug smugglers. Agent A saw one suspected smuggler run into a plowed field and followed him at an angle to intercept him. When Agent A came within 50-60 yards of the suspected smuggler, the suspect stopped and turned around and shot three rounds at Agent A with what Agent A believed to be a handgun. Agent B witnessed three muzzle flashes via the thermal imaging scope.
Agent A dropped to his knee and fired one round from his M4 rifle at the smuggler, missing him. Because of the low light, Agent A was utilizing a monocular night vision goggle. Agent A then immediately moved approximately 20 feet back to the edge of the plowed field and laid down with his rifle, watching the smuggler move in the direction of other agents. Agent A fired an additional two rounds from his prone position to stop the threat, but missed his intended target. Because of the bad weather, Agent A lost sight of the smuggler even with the assistance of night vision technology. Agent A rendezvoused with the other BORTAC agents, and five smugglers were arrested. Numerous bundles of marijuana were also seized.
Result of the NUFRB
On Sept. 14th, 2017 the CBP National Use of Force Review Board (NUFRB) convened to review this use of force incident. The NUFRB held a vote to determine whether the use of force was in compliance with CBP’s Use of Force Policy in effect at the time of the incident.The NUFRB unanimously determined that the agent’s discharge of his agency-issued service weapon on April 7, 2016 was consistent with CBP’s Use of Force Policy in effect at the time of the incident, and that there were no issues involving potential misconduct or administrative violations.
Consistent with the mandate to review and report on potential improvements to policy and training, the NUFRB made one recommendation as a result of reviewing this case.