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Border Patrol: Man arrested in Burger King viral video is suspected of migrant smuggling

Handcuffs. (Keith Allison/Flickr)
February 14, 2020

Border Patrol officials said a stun gun was used to subdue a man suspected of migrant smuggling in a struggle at an El Paso Burger King captured in a viral video.

In the video, which surfaced Tuesday, the man pleads with two Border Patrol agents and claims he has done nothing as they arrest him at the fast food restaurant.

He clings to the counter and asks why he is being detained as the agents pull at him. After continuing to resist and not following their orders, an agent appears to shock him with a stun gun before he is forced to the ground as the officers put handcuffs on him.

The video, which by Wednesday afternoon had reached over 1 million views and had been shared 20,000 times, has since been taken down. Attempts to reach the Facebook user have gone unanswered.

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“The man refused to cooperate with the verbal instructions and attempted to avoid being handcuffed and a struggle ensued,” a Border Patrol statement reads. “Agents deployed their Taser in order to gain control of the subject while mitigating the physical struggle.”

Border Patrol officials said in the statement that a private citizen told the El Paso Police Department “suspicious individuals” were on his property. Agents working with the police identified four people matching the descriptions the resident provided, according to the statement.

“All four were taken into Border Patrol custody for immigration violations without incident,” the statement says.

The Border Patrol did not name the suspects or give the location of their arrests.

Shortly afterward, the citizen told law enforcement that a suspicious vehicle was parked at the residence and that the driver had walked away, “a tactic commonly used by alien smuggling organizations,” the statement reads.

The Border Patrol said agents questioned the man after finding him at a nearby restaurant. Records indicated that he was in the country unlawfully and had a criminal history, the statement says.

He was medically cleared and taken into custody, according to the Border Patrol.

The Border Patrol did not release his name.

Two calls made to police before struggle

A spokesman for the El Paso Police Department said police responded to two calls in the 200 block of Buena Vista Street, a neighborhood just south of the Fox Plaza shopping center, where a Burger King restaurant is located.

Police had received a call around 6 p.m. of two people at a residence on Buena Vista who could not provide identification or record of ownership of the property.

The spokesman said police called the Border Patrol for assistance. Border Patrol agents arrived and took both into custody.

The police spokesman said he could not say why police asked for Border Patrol assistance because that was not detailed in an incident log.

Police received a second call around 11:30 p.m. of a car pulling up to the same residence. The caller said the driver left.

El Paso police returned to the residence and did not find the person, the police spokesman said.

Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said that not everything is clear as to what happened that led to the arrest in the Burger King, but he said there were concerns with what is seen in the video.

He said the pro-immigrant nonprofit is most concerned by the Border Patrol agents’ use of force in apprehending the man and the practices agents use to deescalate a situation.

Garcia pointed out that people were watching as the Border Patrol agents apprehended the man and appeared to be emotionally distraught. The woman recording the video also begins to cry, he added.

“We’ve worked with them (Border Patrol) for many years in relation to building community trust and good relationships with border communities,” Garcia said. “We are shocked. We’ll follow the formal processes to understand more about this situation.”

Generally, immigration officers cannot detain someone without “reasonable suspicion,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union website.

“An agent must have specific facts about you that make it reasonable to believe you are committing or committed, a violation of immigration law or federal law,” the website reads. “If an agent detains you, you can ask for their basis for reasonable suspicion, and they should tell you.”

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© 2020 the El Paso Times