Body camera footage shows fatal Border Patrol shooting near Sasabe, Arizona

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2023 - 3:29pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 19, 2023 - 8:12am

Body camera footage released this month by U.S. Customs and Border Protection this month shows a Border Patrol agent fatally shooting the U.S. citizen driver of a vehicle the agency says was suspected of smuggling migrants near the Arizona-Sonora border in March. 

In 2021, CBP announced some of its personnel would begin wearing body cameras as a way to increase agency accountability and transparency, and said the program would eventually expand nationwide. This is the first such footage to be publicly released since then.

The footage captures the final several minutes of a vehicle pursuit near Sasabe, Arizona, on the evening of March 14. Agents began pursuing a vehicle after a remote camera captured people suspected of being undocumented migrants get into it about a mile from the Sasabe Port of Entry, according CBP statement.

The statement says the vehicle failed to yield to agents several miles down the road on State Route 286, and agents caught up after it had stopped and was attempting to turn around. The footage shows one agent using a baton to break the back and front driver’s side windows. He grabs the driver's left arm as he attempts to reverse the vehicle and shoots once into the window after a brief struggle. The driver can be seen slumping over, his back-left wheel still spinning. 

The shooting and struggle don't have accompanying audio, which the agency says was not captured because of a two-minute buffer period when the camera is first activated. In the rest of the video, a second person seen exiting the car surrenders and is handcuffed nearby, others people are seen getting out of the back seat and truck. According to CBP, six occupants were in the car besides the driver, including another U.S. citizen and five undocumented migrants.

Joy Bertrand is a lawyer in Phoenix who is co-representing some of the family members of the Noe Mejia, the driver fatally shot that night. She says his two minor children and other family members weren't notified the footage was being released. 

"Ordinarily, I'm a big supporter of shining sunlight on the government and really demanding accountability ... but here ... they had no warning that this was going happen, they found out through the news," she said. "There is still a responsibility with this information, and here even a simple notice that this is coming out, I think would've made a difference, but that didn't happen." 

CBP’s own body cam directive doesn’t say whether families need to be notified. In a statement accompanying its release, CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said the incident would be also be reviewed by CBP's National Use of Force Review, once an a separate investigation by the Pima County Sheriff's Office had been completed.