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March 19, 2015, use of force incident in Sumas, WA, resulting in death

Incident Date: 
Thursday, March 19, 2015

On March 19, 2015, at approximately 2:45 p.m. local time, a sensor activated on the U.S.-Canadian border. Two Border Patrol agents assigned to the Sumas Border Patrol Station in Sumas, Washington, were immediately dispatched to investigate the sensor activation.

The first U.S. Border Patrol agent to arrive on scene encountered a male subject who carried a backpack. When approached, the subject mumbled incoherently, placed his hands in his backpack, and backed away from the agent. The agent issued verbal commands, and the subject failed to comply. The agent drew his service-issued handgun while still issuing commands. The subject pulled a can of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) bear-grade spray out of his backpack, pointed it at the agent, dropped his backpack, and ran down a hill covered with blackberry bushes. Instead of pursuing on foot through the blackberry bushes, the agent returned to his vehicle and drove on the road in an attempt to cut off the subject.

The subject emerged at the bottom of the hill, where a second U.S. Border Patrol agent had arrived in his vehicle. The second agent and two Sumas Police Department (SPD) officers, who were in their patrol cars, saw the subject and observed that the subject appeared to be agitated and had blood running down his face. The second agent exited his vehicle, deployed his collapsible straight baton (CSB), and walked toward the subject. The subject walked toward the SPD officers in their patrol cars, pointed the OC bear spray at them, and yelled obscenities and "kill me, just kill me."

As the subject moved toward the SPD officers, they backed up their patrol cars and then exited their vehicles. The subject turned around, began moving toward the second agent, and then lunged toward the second agent while pointing the OC bear spray in the direction of the second agent’s face. At this point, the second agent transitioned from his CSB to his service-issued handgun, issued verbal commands, and backed away from the subject to create distance. The subject ignored commands, lunged again at the second agent, and released a cloud of OC bear spray which struck the second agent in the face and upper torso. The second agent fired two shots from his service-issued handgun, one of which struck the subject in the head, and the subject collapsed to the ground. The medical examiner concluded that the other may have grazed the subject, but investigators at the scene were unable to locate the second bullet.

At 2:51 p.m. local time, “shots fired” was broadcast over the radio. Emergency medical services were dispatched to the scene at 2:52 p.m. and at 2:53 p.m. The subject was pronounced dead at the scene. The second agent was treated for exposure to OC bear spray.

Following this encounter and identification of the subject, Canadian authorities reported that the subject was a suspect in the murder of an 18-year-old man. Canadian authorities were seeking an arrest warrant against the subject for first-degree murder at the time of his death. The Border Patrol agents did not have this information prior to the encounter with the subject.

Result of the NUFRB

The CBP NUFRB convened October 15, 2015, to review the facts as investigated. The NUFRB determined that the agent’s use of deadly force March 19, 2015, was consistent with CBP’s Use of Force Policy.

Consistent with the mandate to review and report on potential improvements to policy and training, the NUFRB also made two operational and policy recommendations that have been referred

Last modified: 
November 16, 2016