A viral video showed U.S. Border Patrol agents tasering a man they suspected of human smuggling and now they’re addressing concerns of the agent’s use of excessive force through the use of stun guns. The encounter happened inside a Burger King in El Paso, Texas on Tuesday and according to the CBP, the man struggled when they tried to handcuff him to take him into custody for questioning, local ABC-affiliate KVIA reports. In the video you can see the man struggling to get away, begging for help and asking why they’re taking him in as the agents try to handcuff him. The agents speak to him in Spanish, asking him to get on the ground as he clings to the counter saying he’s done nothing wrong, they then proceed to taser him, cuff him, and drag him outside the restaurant.
A spokesman for Customs & Border Protection said that agents had arrested four people in the area for immigration violations and then learned that a man had walked away from a nearby suspicious vehicle, which is “a tactic commonly used by alien smuggling organizations.” According to the CBP, his records indicate he was undocumented and had a criminal history — his identity has not been released.
“Agents deployed their taser in order to gain control of the subject while mitigating the physical struggle,” the CBP spokesman said, adding that the man was “medically cleared” after the incident, KVIA reports. However, the incident has once again brought into the spotlight the agency’s use of tasers which has been found to be excessive in some cases.
A report from the Los Angeles Times found that in 70 of 450 uses of tasers from 2010-2013, the agents fired at people who were running away where there was no struggle and agents weren’t in danger. They also found that agents used tasers against people who were trying to climb over the border fence back into Mexico at least six times. Furthermore, two people were shocked while they were handcuffed and another two were hit with five cycles even though the agency’s policy says no one should receive more than three. They also found that three people died from taser use by Border Patrol agents or CBP.
Regarding the encounter at Burger King, the CBP maintained that the video footage “clearly shows the subject causing a disturbance as Border Patrol agents attempt to arrest him.” However, a local immigrant organization voiced their dismay at the agent’s conduct, which left onlookers – including the woman filming – distraught.
“We’ve worked with them (Border Patrol) for many years in relation to building community trust and good relationships with border communities,” Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights told the El Paso Times. “We are shocked. We’ll follow the formal processes to understand more about this situation.”