Border agency clears employees in 4 shooting incidents


SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection found that employees acted properly when they fired guns in four incidents dating back to 2012 — including two that left two people dead.

The findings were released Thursday by the agency’s National Use of Force Review Board, which was established in December 2014 amid widespread criticism that the nation’s largest law enforcement agency was slow to investigate such incidents and lacked transparency.

The cases involve a Border Patrol agent who fired from Texas at rock-throwers in Mexico, a heavily armed murder suspect who was fatally shot as he fled a Texas house when a Border Patrol agent and other law enforcement officers opened fire, a Border Patrol agent who fired at rock-throwers in Arizona and an Office of Air and Marine crew that fired warning shots and crashed into a vessel off the Southern California coast carrying immigrants, one of whom died.

The reviews were launched after federal, state or local prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges. Here are descriptions of the four incidents provided by Customs and Border Protection:

—On Oct. 2, 2014, a Border Patrol agent fired one shot at a rock-thrower in Mexico who posed “an immediate threat.” Agents who were patrolling the Rio Grande near Escobares, Texas, saw three abandoned rafts and eight people fleeing. They found 682 pounds of marijuana nearby.

The suspects threw baseball-sized rocks from Mexico at a Border Patrol vessel that got stuck on a sandbar, leading agents to fire 18 pepper-spray projectiles. The assailants dispersed after the agent fired his rifle; no injuries were reported.

—On July 22, 2014, a Border Patrol agent shot at a murder suspect in La Joya, Texas, who barricaded himself in a home and fired about 15 shots at law enforcement officials. Agents responded to a call for assistance from Edinburg, Texas, police. Ten law enforcement officials, including a Border Patrol agent, fired their guns at the man, who was struck several times and died at the scene.

—On May 5, 2012, a Border Patrol agent who was chasing people who had crossed the border illegally from Mexico fired one shot at a rock-thrower in a mountainous area near Nogales, Arizona. The agent said the assailant threw a rock that was larger than a softball from about 25 feet away. There were no reports of injuries.

— On June 17, 2015, a crew of Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine fired two warning shots and another shot to disable the engine of a boat carrying 20 people illegally from Rosarito Beach, Mexico, to Southern California. The government vessel collided with the boat, throwing the immigrants overboard. One female passenger died.

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