U.S. Border Patrol agents wasted no time in pulling a man out of his car at a checkpoint when he refused to tell them where he was headed and did not consent to having his trunk searched.
“I do not consent to any searches or seizures,” said Rick Herbert, who had a camera planted on the dashboard in front of the driver’s seat.
“What is your reasonable suspicion?”
But the agent, who had already reached inside the window and opened the door, refused to tell him if he had any reasonable suspicion, ordering him to “put your car in park, step out of the vehicle.”
When Herbert again insisted on knowing what reasonable suspicion the agent had that he was committing a crime, the agent grabbed him by the arm and twisted it, trying to pull him out of the car, even though Herbert was strapped in with a seatbelt.
“Hey, dude, stop, I got to unbuckle my seatbelt first,” Herbert told him. “You’re being recorded, just so you know.”
“I know I am,” said the agent, who name tag read “J. Valdivia. “I’m not doing nothing against policy.”
Once Herbert was out of the car, Valdivia shoved him against the window of the back seat where Herbert’s four-year-old son was sitting, handcuffing him.
An agent then stepped into the driver’s seat and drove the car to another area with Herbert’s wife still in the passenger’s seat and his son still in the back seat.
When that agent opened the back door in an attempt to have the child step out, the boy said, “no, no, I don’t like you.”
An agent eventually reaches into the car and turns the camera off.
The incident took place March 12 at a checkpoint 35 miles north of El Centro, a border town in California, east of San Diego as you can see in the map below. It was uploaded today.
Nearly a year after the Obama administration vowed to crack down on Border Patrol agents who use excessive force, no shooting cases have been resolved, no agents have been disciplined, a review panel has yet to issue recommendations, and the top two jobs in internal affairs are vacant.
The response suggests the difficulties of reforming the nation’s largest federal law enforcement force despite complaints in Congress and from advocacy groups that Border Patrol agents have shot and killed two dozen people on the Southwest border in the last five years but have faced no criminal prosecutions or disciplinary actions.
Border Patrol may stop vehicles at certain checkpoints to: (1) ask a few, limited questions to verify citizenship of the vehicles’ occupants and (2) visually inspect the exterior of a vehicle. Agents may send any vehicle to a secondary inspection area for the same purpose: brief questioning and visual inspection. Agents should not ask questions unrelated to verifying citizenship, nor can they hold you for an extended time without cause. Even though you always have the right to remain silent, if you don’t answer questions to establish your citizenship, officials may detain you longer in order to verify your immigration status.
But Herbert and his wife both confirmed they were citizens upon being asked. He just didn’t feel the need to tell the agent where he had been and where he was going.
UPDATE: The Border Patrol provided the following statement to PINAC:
On March 12, 2015, at around 10:54 am, the driver of a Chevrolet Cavalier approached the El Centro Sector Highway 86 checkpoint where a Border Patrol K-9 detection team produced a positive alert to the vehicle for contraband. Because of this alert for contraband, the male driver was directed by agents to the secondary inspection area for a more thorough examination of the car. The man failed to follow the agents directions to drive to secondary and was removed from the vehicle. Agents searched the vehicle and discovered a small testable amount of marijuana under the driver’s seat. The California Highway Patrol was called to the scene where an CHP officer conducted a roadside sobriety test on the driver as a precaution. The driver was eventually released without any charges.
In an email interview with PINAC, Herbert said they had led him to believe he was being charged, despite being released.
I was arrested, fingerprinted and forced to sit on a bench inside for over an hour then let outside to do a field sobriety test cunducted by CHP and then brought back inside until I was free to go. I was also told I was being arrested for a “testable amount of Marijuana at a federal checkpoint” there was no Marijuana in our possesion. He told me I am being charged and released and that charge would be on my criminal record permanently.
But he also said they never gave him any formal court notice, so he is free of charges in this case.