US border patrol officer pleads guilty to deliberately hitting migrant with truck and calling immigrants 'subhuman'
A Border Patrol agent who intentionally hit a Guatemalan migrant with his truck in Arizona in 2017 has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge, according to a document filed in federal court on Monday.
The agent, Matthew Bowen, also sent a text message referring to immigrants as “subhuman” and “mindless murdering savages”, the court heard.
He will face up to one year in prison and could be fined $100,000 when he is sentenced on 15 October for deprivation of rights under colour of law, according to the plea agreement.
Bowen, was stationed in Nogales, Arizona, also said in the plea agreement that he would resign from the Border Patrol. He was suspended in June 2018, according to The Arizona Daily Star.
Bowen was indicted in May 2018 on the deprivation charge and another count charging him with lying to investigators.
Court documents say that on 3 December, 2017, Bowen hit the migrant, Antolin Rolando Lopez-Aguilar, with his truck and nearly ran him over after suspecting him of trying to cross into the United States illegally.
Mr Lopez-Aguilar had abrasions on his right hand and both knees after being struck, the documents say.
The same day as the alleged attack took place, Mr Lopez-Aguilar was charged with unlawful entry into the United States and transported to Tucson, Arizona. It is unclear what happened to him after that.
“I intentionally struck him with an unreasonable amount of force,” Bowen said in the plea agreement.
He added that his actions “were not justified and violated his rights protected by the Constitution of the United States.”
The US Attorney’s Office in Tucson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday evening. Efforts to reach Bowen and his lawyer, Sean C. Chapman, were also unsuccessful.
The case drew national attention after a series of racist and derogatory text messages exchanged between Bowen and other Border Patrol agents found by prosecutors on Bowen’s cellphone were included in the court filing.
Some of the messages reflected Bowen’s perception of immigrants, his political beliefs and his job dissatisfaction, according to court documents.
In a message sent to another Border Patrol agent more than two weeks before the episode, Bowen wrote, “PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!” and referred to immigrants as “mindless murdering savages,” “subhuman” and “unworthy of being kindling for a fire.”
Chapman said that more than 1,300 text messages, sent from November 2017 to March 2018, were extracted from Bowen’s phone. He argued that most of the messages were not relevant to the case and should not be included as evidence in the trial, according to a motion filed in April.
After review, the court decided to remove all messages sent before the date of the crime from evidence in the case.
Senior Judge Cindy K Jorgenson of US District Court in Arizona, ruled, however, that messages sent after that date that included racially offensive language or referred to Bowen’s job dissatisfaction were relevant to the case.
The day after the encounter, Bowen sent a message to another Border Patrol agent describing what happened: “I used an fl 50 to do a human pit maneuver on a guat running from an agent.”
He added, “Just a little push with a ford bumper.”
Days later, he sent another message: “So IM feeling the stress from this bs thinking about being taken away from my kid or something.”
A week after that, Bowen wrote: “guys are being made to think any use of force results in you being investigated.”
New York Times