Recently-surfaced images detailing the injuries sustained by U.S. Border Patrol Agents from rock-throwing illegal aliens have brought a new, startling perspective to the ongoing debate over appropriate use of force along the Mexican border.
In February 2014 in Milton, Texas, 41 year old Jesus Flores-Cruz was shot and killed after he threw large rocks at a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. The Agent claimed his life was being threatened, but left-leaning groups such as the ACLU insist he had no right to open fire. The incident ultimately sparked a nation-wide debate about whether or not Border Patrol Agents should be allowed to use deadly force when faced with rock-throwing foreign nationals.
Flores-Cruz, a Mexican citizen who investigators claim was most likely in the U.S. illegally, began throwing rocks at the agent from a hillside according to previous Breitbart Texas reports. The rocks being thrown gradually got larger–one was the size of a basketball–and some striking the agent in the head. The agent claimed that he fired warning shots twice when he began to fear for his life. After Flores-Cruz refused to stop throwing rocks, the agent shot him dead.
Zack Taylor, Chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO), said agents must have a way to defend themselves against threatening immigrants armed with rocks.
“If you don’t throw rocks at the border patrol agent, they’re not going to shoot you,” Taylor told Breitbart Texas. “If you threaten the life of the officer, you then put the officer in a position where he has to protect his life. What do people not understand about that?”
Left-leaning activists argue that Border Patrol Agents should not be allowed to respond with deadly force while being attacked with improvised weapons like rocks and bottles. Terri Burke, Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, told the El Paso Times there needs to be more scrutiny of shootings by Border Patrol Agents. Breitbart Texas took the El Paso Times and the ACLU to task in a recent titled Border Patrol Union: ACLU Trying to ‘Limit Effectiveness’ of Border Patrol.
“We believe somebody really needs to put their feet to the fire,” Burke said, adding that 22 individuals have been killed by agents on the border since 2010. In the past, the ACLU has asserted that agents should resort to nonlethal means like stun guns or pepper spray.
“I tell the ACLU and like-minded politicians to go out there, stand with the Border Patrol agent, and help them,” Taylor said. “Then maybe they would have a different, more informed opinion about how agents should be able to protect themselves… Stun guns don’t work on all people, and they have a very short range.”
Former Agent Taylor added that under current rules, Border Patrol agents only shoot when their lives are truly in danger.
“The ACLU is trying to push the idea that border patrol uses excess force indiscriminately, but that is just not the case. Agents can lose their job or go to jail for doing that,” Taylor said. “When I was an agent, I had many opportunities to shoot people, but it didn’t happen because it wasn’t necessary.”
Sylvia Longmire, Breitbart Texas’ Contributing Editor and author of “Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer,” said in a related interview, “Border Patrol agents are made out to be the bad guys, shooting at innocent Mexican migrants who are ostensibly just tossing pebbles.”
In reality, however, rock throwing can severely injure, and even kill agents. In February, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an illegal immigrant who threw rocks in his face. Had he not killed his assailant, that agent could have died from the rocks being hurled.
“In most of these cases, there is no place for the agent to take cover,” Taylor pointed out. “The alien leaves him no choice but to shoot, in order to save his own life. It’s like the alien committed suicide. Why should an agent die because somebody else is stupid and refuses to stop throwing rocks?”
Taylor added that when immigrants know that Border Patrol has the ability to use lethal force, they are less likely to throw rocks. He said, “A lot of these people only understand overwhelming force. If they know the agent is going to shoot them if they throw a rock, they’re not going to throw a rock… Shooting at an immigrant when your life is in danger is a bad choice, but in many cases it is also the only choice.”
The use of force question is not a recent matter. Breitbart Texas’ Managing Director Brandon Darby has detailed a number of episodes where Border Patrol Agents have been told to stand down–regardless of pursuit.
In November 2013 Texas Senator John Cornyn stood up to increasing pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that agents should be able to use deadly force should they feel their lives are in danger. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) eventually resisted lobbying efforts to complicate the rules of engagement. In a previous interview with Shawn Moran, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, the official commended the agency’s effort to side on the personal security of its agents.
“I was surprised by the Border Patrol Agency standing up for us in the face of special interest groups,” Moran said. “Past history shows that the Border Patrol leadership usually backs down in the face of special interest groups.”
Images featured with permission from the March issue of Homeland Security Today.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate