January 29, 2020

The Intercept reports:

“On January 29, an Ecuadorian man was killed in a car crash near downtown El Paso, Texas, only yards from the U.S.-Mexico border. An Ecuadorian woman was gravely hurt and weeks later is just emerging from a coma. She’s missing part of her skull and half of her body appears to be paralyzed. Stuck in a hospital thousands of miles from her kin, she has had few visitors, but one has been a Border Patrol agent who feels grief-stricken by the accident and believes the Border Patrol played a major role in causing it. The agent recently had an emotional meeting with a family member of the severely injured woman and offered to testify if the family brings a lawsuit.

“Police reports say the crash was caused by a drunk driver who picked up the Ecuadorians after they crossed into the U.S. illegally. The driver is said to have been a smuggler who was speeding to evade the Border Patrol, and crashed because he was driving too fast. But the agent says that the chase was improper. It occurred near downtown El Paso on West Paisano Drive, on a section of road so prone to crashes that local law enforcement officers call it a ‘deadly curve.’

“…police reports and statements, as well as the Border Patrol’s own record of vehicle pursuits in the area, raise questions about the agency’s denial of a chase. An El Paso Police Department press release states that the driver was ‘traveling at a high rate of speed as Border Patrol agents drove towards the vehicle.’

“…in the recent crash, Montañez said, the policy was ignored. ‘The supervisor should have ordered a stop to the pursuit,’ she said. ‘When you back off from your emergency lights, the driver tends to think, ‘Oh, he’s letting me go,’ and slows down. Then the agent follows him normally instead of being on a chase.’ On January 29, that back-off order didn’t come, she said. ‘Maybe the supervisor was busy and not listening to the radio. I don’t know what happened.'”

Debbie Nathan, “Border Patrol Agent Speaks out About a High-speed Chase That Ended in an Immigrant’s Death,” (The Intercept, February 28, 2020) <https://theintercept.com/2020/02/28/border-patrol-el-paso-texas-car-chase/t>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Accountability Status: Under OPR investigation