Epidemic of Killings


Epidemic of Killings

The systematic abuses perpetrated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have also involved deadly and lethal force. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico estimates that 55 people, a number of them under questionable circumstances, were killed in encounters with CBP between January 2010 and April 2017. Fifty of these deaths involved use of force; five were health related; nineteen involved US citizens; and six involved victims standing in Mexico.

Notably, at least 11 deaths were the result of border enforcement agents responding with deadly force to migrants who allegedly threw rocks at them. Before around 2012, the Border Patrol essentially treated rock throwing (or rockings) as lethal force and condoned officers responding with lethal force. According to James Tomsheck, former Assistant Commissioner of the CBP Office of Internal Affairs, the Chiefs of the Border Patrol during his 8-year tenure at CBP consistently supported the use of deadly force against rock throwers. He stated that the ‘mantra from Border Patrol management was that rocking is lethal force’.

Importantly, the treatment of rocking as lethal force has been called into question. In a review commissioned by CBP of use of force cases, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit research organization, noted that ‘Too many cases do not appear to meet the test of objective reasonableness with regard to the use of deadly force’. In some cases, it appears that frustration was a motivating factor in the shooting of rock throwers. PERF’s main recommendation was that officers/agents be barred from using deadly force against people throwing objects not capable of causing serious harm. They further recommended that agents be trained to de-escalate rocking encounters with migrants by, for example, moving out of range or taking cover.

The Border Patrol appears to have changed its tactics when dealing with rock throwers. However, while rocking fatalities basically ceased after 2012, other use of force deaths have continued.


•Juan Mendez Jr.— Age 18; Encounter on October 5, 2010 in Texas.

An agent shot Juan twice in the back following a brief struggle. He was stopped by agents for driving with a ‘suspicious load’.

•Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca—Age 15; Encounter on June 7, 2010 in El Paso, Texas

A group of suspect undocumented immigrants allegedly threw rocks at Border Patrol agents at an international bridge. An agent responded by firing his weapon, hitting Sergio who was standing on Mexican soil.

•Ramses Barron Torres—Age 17; Encounter on January 5, 2011 in Nogales, Arizona.

Border Patrol agents shot and killed Ramses for throwing rocks. Witnesses refuted the claim the he threw rocks.

•Roberto Pérez Pérez—Age 63; Encounter on January 13, 2011 in San Diego, CA

Officers beat Roberto as he tried to re-enter the United States. He died while in detention a few months later due to medical complications.

•Cruz Marcelino Velazquez Acevedo—Age 16; Encounter on November 13, 2013 in San Ysidro, California.

Cruz was stopped by CBP officers while crossing through a port of entry and sent to secondary inspection. While there, officers asked him about two bottles of liquid he was transporting. Cruz claimed that they were filled with apple juice, but the officers suspected drugs. They coerced Cruz to take a sip of the liquid to prove that it was simply juice. Within an hour, he started suffering from acute methamphetamine intoxication and later died.

•Unknown—Encounter on June 9, 2016 in Yuma, Arizona.

Border Patrol agents encountered a male subject near the river in Laredo, Texas. The subject allegedly became combative and struggled with the agents. He collapsed while being escorted to a vehicle and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.