I think it's safe to say that a law enforcement agency has grown dangerously out of control comes when its officers begin using their powers to silence anyone who questions them or their authority. The tasing-and-beating death in 2010 of an illegal border crosser named Anastasio Hernandez Rojas near San Diego is a powerful sign that the U.S. Border Patrol has crossed that line.
Recently released footage of the man's beating makes clear that the Border Patrol's own accounts and explanations for the death are baldfaced fabrications.
Even more chilling are the revelations about how Hernandez Rojas came to be singled out by officers for a beating. It's readily apparent that he was beaten to death because he asked to file a complaint against an agent.
The beating did not occur when Hernandez Rojas was caught and arrested. When that happened, he was kicked repeatedly in a part of his ankle by an agent that had been surgically repaired, and the man had kicked him there even after being told that. As a result, once at the holding facility after the arrest, Hernandez Rojas made a request to file a complaint against that agent.
Then, as all the men with whom he was being held at the facility were taken to the border release point where they were to be returned to Mexico, Hernandez Rojas was separated out from the rest of the group and taken by himself to another gate -- surrounded by a full phalanx of Border Patrolmen armed with nightsticks and Tasers, including the agent against whom he had asked to file a complaint. It was there that, according to the Border Patrol, the man became "violent" and had to be subdued -- even though several eyewitnesses confirm that in fact Hernandez Rojas did nothing before the beating commenced.
The story was the work of reporters from the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, who found that this was anything but an isolated incident:
Eight people have been killed along the border in the past two years. One man died a short time after being beaten and tased, an event recorded by two eyewitnesses whose video is the centerpiece of the report. Both eyewitnesses say the man offered little or no resistance. One told Need to Know that she felt like she watched someone being "murdered," and the San Diego coroner's office classified the death as a “homicide.”
The report raises questions about accountability. Because border agents are part of the Department of Homeland Security, they are not subjected to the same public scrutiny as police officers who use their weapons. It also questions whether, in the rush to secure the border, agents are being adequately trained. And it raises the question: why aren't these cases being prosecuted?
Sixteen members of Congress are demanding an investigation.
You can too. Presente.org is organizing a petition demanding an investigation by the Justice Department, As Anastasio's widow explains:
Over the last two years, Border Patrol has refused to release the names of the agents responsible or to reveal whether those involved have been disciplined. Anastasio was not their only victim. Since the year Anastasio was killed, Border Patrol agents have killed or seriously injured at least 9 people from San Diego to Texas.