Border Patrol Rejects Government-Commissioned Advice to Stop Shooting Rock Throwers

Thursday, November 07, 2013
father at casket of Mexican teenager killed by U.S. border patrol (photo: Reuters, Alejandro Bringas

Agents patrolling the United States’ border with Mexico will continue to shoot anyone throwing rocks at them, officials declared this week.


A government-commissioned study by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group that advises law enforcement agencies, had recommended that the Border Patrol cease using deadly force in response to rock-throwers.


But officials with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees the Border Patrol, dismissed the recommendation, calling it “very restrictive,” according to the Associated Press (AP).


“We shouldn’t have carve-outs in our policy and say, except for this, except for that,” Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher told AP. “Just to say that you shouldn’t shoot at rock-throwers or vehicles for us, in our environment, was very problematic and could potentially put Border Patrol agents in danger.”


Current policy, which will remain unchanged, authorizes agents to utilize deadly force if they reasonably believe that their lives or the lives of others are in danger.


The review was prompted by the 2010 death of Anastasio Hernandez, an unarmed Mexican who was fatally shot with a stun gun at San Diego’s San Ysidro port of entry. Authorities claimed Hernandez was being combative while being deported to Mexico.


Federal prosecutors are still investigating the killing.


CBP has killed 20 people, including Hernandez, since 2010. Eight died in rock-throwing incidents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.


The Border Patrol considers rocks deadly weapons. They were the most common type of assault on agents two years ago, when 339 incidents were recorded. In 33 cases, agents responded with gunfire, and resorted to less-than-lethal force (which includes pepper spray and batons) 118 times.


Rock attacks declined significantly by 2012, down to 185 times. Gun responses also went down, to 22 times, as did responses with less-than-lethal force (42).


In response to the controversy, the Department of Homeland Security has said it plans to test dashboard cameras in Border Patrol vehicles so that confrontations can be recorded for investigations of incidents. It also plans to overhaul basic training for new agents.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Border Patrol Rejects Curbs on Force (by Elliot Spagat, Associated Press)

Border Patrol Is Keeping Its Policy of Shooting People Who Throw Rocks (by Alexander Abad-Santos, Atlantic Wire)

Dashboard Cameras Coming to US Border Agent Trucks (by Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press)

Border Patrol Agents Kill 27-Year Resident of U.S. and 15-Year-Old Boy (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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