U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for the first time ever, released body-worn camera footage of a March 14, 2023 shooting incident. In the video, a patrol officer border guard is seen trying to arrest a suspected smuggler at the end of a high-speed chase that took place north of Sasabe, Arizona. The shooting highlights the potential for deadly consequences in the daily struggle to stop migrant smuggling along the southwestern border.
In a statement released by the agency, CBP described the incident as it unfolded on March 14, 2023. Beginning at approximately 6:18 p.m., a Border Patrol remote camera operator observed suspected migrants getting into a BMW sedan near the Sasabe port of entry.
The first two minutes of the video contained no audio due to normal buffering performance settings on the body-worn camera. Voice-over narration and captions provided by CBP. WARNING: The video contains images that could be disturbing.
According to CBP, two Border Patrol agents located the BMW on State Route 286 and began following it. Officers noted erratic driving as the vehicle accelerated and slowed. The vehicle’s turn signals were also repeatedly cycled on and off, the statement said. Prompted by the erratic driving, Border Patrol agents attempted to stop the vehicle to investigate further.
At 6:34 p.m., a chase began after the BMW failed to yield to the Border Patrol vehicle’s hazard lights. The chase continued on an unpaved road near Milestone 20 on State Route 286. The shooting incident occurred when the driver of the BMW attempted to turn around on the unimproved pavement and to continue to flee from the authorities.
Footage shows the first Border Patrol agent to arrive positions his vehicle behind the suspect vehicle and exits to approach the BMW. The officer, using his collapsible baton, smashes the rear and front windows on the driver’s side of the suspect vehicle. The driver of the BMW began to turn the steering wheel of the vehicle when the Border Patrol agent grabbed the suspect’s left arm. As the driver began to back the vehicle while turning the steering wheel, the Border Patrol agent pulled out his sidearm and fired a shot at the driver.
The video shows the Border Patrol agent immediately attempting to apprehend an occupant of the vehicle who jumped from the front passenger seat. After traveling a short distance, this occupant finally surrendered to the agent. The occupier shouted at the officer, “I didn’t want him backing down on me, sir.” The alleged accomplice then told the Border Patrol agent to open the trunk of the BMW and confirmed there were people inside. After opening the trunk, officers discovered three migrants hiding inside.
According to Customs and Border Protection, five migrants were being transported in the suspect’s vehicle, two in the back seat and three locked in the trunk. The alleged accomplice who fled from the front passenger seat of the vehicle was later identified as a US citizen.
According to CBP, and not shown in the released video footage, two Border Patrol agents trained as emergency medical technicians assisted the driver of the vehicle by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and using an automated external defibrillator. The driver, also a US citizen, was pronounced dead at the scene by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
The incident is just one example of the sometimes deadly consequences along the southwestern border due to rampant migrant smuggling activity. As Breitbart Texas reports, four migrants were killed in two separate vehicle crashes near the Texas border over a 24-hour period in June 2022. In October 2022, three migrants were killed when a suspected migrant smuggler lost control of his vehicle in Kinney County. Texas.
In addition to the danger migrant smugglers pose to migrants themselves, several shootings involving law enforcement officers have occurred recently when migrant smugglers have used their vehicles to threaten officers. In February, a woman suspected of migrant smuggling was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent near Eagle Pass, Texas, after the suspect attempted to hit the agent with the vehicle. This was the second incident involving a Border Patrol agent facing imminent danger from a smuggler’s vehicle this month.
The shooting incident is still under investigation by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The incident is also under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of Inspector General.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief of Law Enforcement Operations, directing the operations of nine Border Patrol Stations in the Del Rio, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.