Former Rep. Hunter supports work ethic of BP agent who killed woman

Someone close to agent watched interview

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 discovered a powerful former congressman recommended a man for a job as a federal Border Patrol agent, despite the man's former law enforcement supervisors describing him as someone "who cannot be trusted with a badge or a gun." The retired politician also knew about the man's work history in law enforcement as a sheriff's deputy.

Former Congressman Duncan Hunter invited Team 10 into his home, and said Justin Tackett did a great job for him and his office. Tackett worked for Hunter before he went to work for the federal government. Hunter hired Tackett as a community liaison for his office as historic wildfires raged across San Diego County in 2003.

"His job very simply was to help the victims of the fires," Hunter said. "I needed a hard-charging, energetic guy who would get out there and work 16 hours a day who had some law enforcement background."

Tackett's law enforcement background came from the Imperial County Sheriff's Department. Tackett was a sheriff's deputy before he worked for the congressman. He quit the department before he was fired.

Team 10 obtained two notices sent by the deputy chief to Tackett. One was dated October 2002, the other dated February 2003. Each one stated, "I propose to terminate your employment with the Imperial County Sheriff's Department."

The disciplinary letters stated Tackett abused his power several times when he tried to conduct probation searches -- something Tackett was not authorized to do as a patrol officer. The letters also said Tackett "repeatedly lied" to his superiors about his involvement in the probation searches.

Team 10 found out Tackett's father worked at that time for the county's probation department.

Former Imperial County Supervisor Hank Kuiper said there were "several incidents" involving Tackett allegedly abusing his power, including one with Kuiper's brother-in-law, Reno Bertussi.

Bertussi told Team 10 in October that back in 2003, Tackett threw him on the ground in front of his family, cuffed him, locked him in the squad car and turned the heat up on a day when the temperature outside was more than 100 degrees.

According to court documents Tackett came to Bertussi's home in El Centro to respond to a dispute between neighbors. The Imperial County Sheriff's Department reprimanded Tackett for the incident.

Kuiper said incidents like the one with his brother-in-law should have been a red flag for Hunter's office, and for the Border Patrol, before Tackett was hired at each job.

"Once in a while someone falls through the cracks that shouldn't be there," Kuiper said. "Perhaps this is one of those times."

Several other people in Imperial County echoed the same comment about Tackett to Team 10, but declined to go on the record for this report.

Tackett's disciplinary letters from the sheriff's department also said, "a deputy who cannot be trusted to tell to tell the truth is a person who cannot be trusted with a badge or a gun."

Hunter said he knew about Tackett's trouble with the sheriff's department when he hired Tackett.

"We knew that," Hunter said. "What I judge Justin on is what he did for me." Hunter added, "Typically when counties and their employees have a parting it's kind of like a divorce between a man and a wife."

In the room with Team 10 and Hunter was an invited guest -- Justin Tacket's grandfather, Don Floyd. He would not say if he asked the former congressman to hire Tackett.

"I would suggest that Don came to him and said, 'Hey, I got a grandson that needs a job," Kuiper said. "Duncan probably had a spot open and said bring him up here and let him go to work."

Floyd wanted to hear Team 10's interview with Hunter before he made a decision on whether to go on camera. He ultimately declined, citing the shooting investigation involving his grandson.

Tackett shot and killed a single mother of five while serving a federal warrant on the afternoon of September 28, in Chula Vista. Investigators said Munique Tachiquin was not the subject of the warrant that day. She was on probation for a drug conviction. Tachiquin's family maintains the shooting was not justified. Tackett maintains the shooting was in self-defense.

Tackett worked for Hunter for two-and-a-half years, and then went on to work as a federal agent.

He has not returned Team 10's calls about his work for Hunter.

Hunter represented people in the San Diego area in the U.S. House of Representatives for 28 years.

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