Border Patrol agent involved in deadly shooting had just over 2 years on the job

SAN DIEGO - On Monday, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detail released the name of the Border Patrol agent involved in the deadly shooting of an undocumented immigrant on February 18.

Agent Daniel Basinger has worked for the United States Border Patrol for just over two and a half years and he is back on duty, according to the Sheriff’s press release.

The Back Story

Jesus Flores-Cruz suffered two gunshot wounds around 6:40 a.m. Tuesday in the White Cross area of the Otay Mountain Range, roughly four miles east of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, San Diego County Sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said in a statement.

The suspect was identified through his fingerprints, which were recorded during a 1996 arrest by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the lieutenant.

Shortly before the shooting, the agent and another U.S. Border Patrol agent were attempting to apprehend two other immigrants suspected of illegal entry into the U.S. when the agents split up to cut off the fleeing suspects, Giannantonio said.

The agent who later fired his weapon saw a third suspect unrelated to the two already being chased.

"He ordered the man to stop in English and Spanish but he fled on foot," Giannantonio said. "The agent chased after him, following him down a ravine and back up the opposite hillside."

While above the agent on a hillside, the suspect picked up fist-sized rocks and began throwing them at the agent, despite repeated orders in English and Spanish to stop, Giannantonio said, noting the rocks being thrown got progressively bigger, reaching the size of a basketball.

 "One of the larger rocks struck the agent in the head," he said. "Fearing that another rock strike to the head could kill or incapacitate him, the agent fired his duty pistol at least twice at the man, striking him."

Flores-Cruz was pronounced dead at the scene.

The agent, who deflected some of the rocks with his hands, was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.

The Sheriff's Department asks anyone with information about this incident to call the Homicide Detail at (858) 974-2321/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can remain anonymous and be eligible for up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Rock Attacks

Agents were attacked with rocks 339 times in the 2011 fiscal year, more than any other type of assault, according to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. They responded with gunfire 33 times and with less-than-lethal force -- a category that includes pepper spray and batons -- 118 times.
Rock attacks fell to 185 instances in fiscal 2012, becoming the second-most-common type of assault. Agents fired guns 22 times and responded 42 times with less-than-lethal force.

Under current Border Patrol policy, agents can use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that their lives or the lives of others are in danger.

A spokesman for the union representing Border Patrol agents said he was confident the investigation would find the agent did nothing wrong.

"The easiest way to stop these incidents from happening is to stop attacking Border Patrol agents," said Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council.

The Controversy

The Mexican government has condemned the shooting. Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said it was "deeply concerned" about the incident. The department said lethal force should be avoided in immigration enforcement.

Human rights groups are also weighing in.

The Commissioner Felipe González, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants for Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said in a statement released on Monday that there needs to be clarity and transparency on the investigations that are being carried out internally on these agents for excessive use of force.

“In recent years, we have received information on cases in which Border Patrol agents make use of lethal force in response to having been attacked by migrants who throw rocks at them,” says Gonzalez. “The information that we have indicates that there are many obstacles that lead state and federal authorities to not investigate whether these deaths could have occurred as a result of excessive use of force by Border Patrol agents, which favors their impunity.”

Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), in San Diego, applauds the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for releasing this statement and urges the Obama administration to take immediate steps to prevent loss of life along the Southern Border.

"We urge the Obama administration to take immediate steps to hold Border Patrol agents accountable for their actions and halt the shameful practice of shooting at unarmed civilians,” Ramirez said in a statement.

He adds, “it is because of incidents like this that SBCC has called for agents to wear body cameras to record their interactions, especially in remote areas."

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