Allegations from the Defense in the Border Patrol Shooting Case
This is a follow-up post to this morning’s post about the Border Patrol shooting case.
In comments to my earlier post, Tom Maguire provides this link to statements about the case from Andy Ramirez, Chairman of “Friends of the Border Patrol” (Maguire says: “guess which side they are on?”). The document sets forth Ramirez’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, relating to various immigration issues. He addresses the Compean/Ramos case at page 41. Ramirez is not a percipient witness in the case, but rather speaks as someone who has taken an interest in the case from the perspective of the recently sentenced agents.
His statements about the case are rather unfocused and rambling, and it’s hard to know what to make of them. Maguire excerpts this portion:
In a nutshell, the border patrol agents engaged in a pursuit of Aldrete-Davila as they were trained to do, and violated the pursuit policy forbidding them from pursuits without the permission of supervisors. Compean cut the smuggler off at the Rio Grande River upon which a scuffle ensued as Aldrete-Davila tried to evade capture and re-enter Mexico.
Compean was overpowered and left bleeding from a cut. At this point, Ramos was attempting to get to the scene where the struggle had taken place and heard shots fired, though he could not see the scene, but understood as he was a firearms instructor that Compean had to be in trouble. As he entered the scene he saw, Compean down and cut and attempted to capture Davila who was still fleeing towards Mexico. At this point, the smuggler turned and the agents’ thought he had a weapon in his hand at which point Ramos fired one shot from his sidearm.
Neither agent at the time thought any shots had ever hit the smuggler, as he did not fall, limp, or showed any discomfort. Once in Mexico Aldrete-Davila was met by a vehicle, which he entered and sped away.
A number of agents, including a supervisor had reached the scene, and secured the smuggler’s load-vehicle, which was filled with 743 pounds of marijuana.
Apparently, most of the agents on the scene, including Juarez, whose testimony was cited above, are facing disciplinary problems themselves (no one filed a discharge of firearms report), and the allegation is that they have been encouraged to cooperate with the prosecution by taking an imaginative view of the truth.
Why the prosecutor might have it in for these two agents did not jump off the page at me.
To me, the document’s most significant allegation is that Agent Sanchez, the Border Patrol agent who witnessed the shooting according to the U.S. Attorney’s fact sheet, was allegedly a lifelong friend of the drug smuggler who was shot. [UPDATE 2-15-07: I got that wrong. An Agent Juarez witnessed the shooting, not Sanchez. This is far less significant.] But the statements about this are bizarre. For example:
The smuggler testifed that he and Rene Sanchez had not seen each other in the past year, while Rene Sanchez testified that he had not seen the smuggler since he was seven years old.
. . . .
When Rene Sanchez took the stand he testified that he had not seen the smuggler for approximately eight years.
Is Agent Sanchez fifteen years old? Obviously not. So what gives? Did Agent Sanchez really contradict himself that blatantly? Or do the Friends of the Border Patrol have their facts garbled? I honestly have to say that I have no idea which possibility is the right one.
I am intrigued, however, by the apparent fact that the agent/witness and the drug smuggler/shooting victim ever knew each other at all. That fact alone makes the unbiased observer wonder if something more isn’t going on here. [UPDATE 2-15-07: Far less so now that I realize that Agent Juarez is the one who witnessed the shooting.]
However, the testimony from Ramirez, the Friends of the Border patrol fellow, does absolutely nothing to explain arguably the most damning evidence against the agents: the fact that they picked up their shells, filed a false report about the incident, and pretended like it had never happened. To me, those are the actions of people who did something wrong and knew it. Ramirez’s only response is similar to that offered by Debra Saunders: that failing to report the shooting is an administrative issue with a maximum punishment of 5 days’ suspension. (I find that hard to believe; if it’s really true, the Border Patrol needs to change its rules, as failing to report a shooting strikes me as a serious offense.)
But Ramirez never addresses what those actions tell us about the agents’ state of mind. If they didn’t do anything wrong — if they fired at a guy whom they believed had been armed — why not just report the shooting and give supervisors the explanation?
Don’t tell me that they picked up the shells just to avoid filling out some paperwork. I don’t think there’s a cop alive who would buy that explanation. Law enforcement personnel are trained that any use of force — even tackling a suspect or pepper-spraying him — requires extensive documentation. Firing their weapons takes it to a whole different level, and cops are trained in the importance of following procedure in such cases. They know that any failure to fill out the necessary reports, if this failure is discovered, will cause supervisors and others to be very suspicious of the use of force.
Why risk that? I can think of only one reason: because the agents did not want the shooting to be investigated — because they knew they had done something wrong.
If a cop pretends as though a shooting like this didn’t happen, he is almost certainly hiding something.
If there’s an alternate explanation, I have yet to hear it — from Ramirez, from any of you, or from Debra Saunders.
Speaking of Debra Saunders, I wrote her with a link to my post. She didn’t appear to be very interested:
I get hundreds of emails each week and do not have the time to answer that long piece. Suffice it to say that I left out a number of facts from both sides of the issue because I have limited space. I am aware of the limitations I face writing about a trial I did not attend, which is why I worked hard to get Sutton’s views across. That said, I do not believe, and I wrote this, that these men should spend a night behind bars if Sutton is correct.
Finally: Saunders’ column and Ramirez’s testimony both raise the issue that perhaps as many as three jurors had argued for an acquittal but ended up voting guilty after the foreman told them that the judge wouldn’t accept a hung jury. These jurors don’t sound too bright to me, frankly, but if there is any truth to that claim, it will certainly be a ground for appeal. I’m content to let the legal process work it out, and determine whether something improper happened, or whether jurors are just having second thoughts after reading media coverage about the case.