Additional claims of excessive force against Border Patrol agent uncovered

Agent Justin Tackett fatally shot South Bay woman

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 has uncovered additional claims of excessive force against the U.S. Border Patrol agent who shot and killed a single mother of five.

Agent Justin Tackett's work history has been under a microscope since he shot and killed 32-year-old Munique Tachiquin in Chula Vista on September 28.

Imperial County resident Reno Bertussi told Team 10 Tackett tortured him on May 22, 2003. At that time, Tackett worked for the Imperial County Sheriff's Department as a deputy.

Bertussi said Tackett handcuffed him and locked him in the squad car while investigating a report about stolen property in El Centro.

"He turned the heater on, he closed the door and he left me in there," Bertussi said. "I stayed in that hot f'-ing car for an hour before I couldn't stand it anymore."

National Weather Service reports show the temperature reached 102 degrees on May 22, 2003, in El Centro. Bertussi said he kicked out a window to escape.

"There was so much heat in the sheriff's car, it sounded like an explosion," he said.

No charges were filed against Bertussi in the case, but he filed a lawsuit against the county. Bertussi alleged Tackett "acted inhumanely and endangered his life."

Several months before this incident with Bertussi, Tackett had a disciplinary letter placed in his personnel file that Team 10 has obtained.

In October 2002, the former chief deputy wrote he would propose Tackett's termination based on five incidents over roughly two years. The incidents all involved Tackett trying to conduct searches and probation checks when he was ordered not to do. The letter said Tackett's primary function as a patrol officer was to answer calls for service, not conduct probation searches.

Former Deputy Chief Sharon Housouer laid out details of each incident in the letter, and said Tackett repeatedly lied and used deception of other officers to get around direct orders to refrain from searches.

"The thread that runs through your subject activities is your repeatedly placing yourself above and before the department," the letter said. "You are not a law unto yourself."

"A deputy who cannot be trusted to tell the truth is a person who cannot be trusted with a badge or a gun," Housouer wrote.

In April 2003, Housouer wrote another letter placed in Tackett's file titled, "Final Notice of Disciplinary Action." It suspended Tackett for 30 working days, six weeks, without pay.

Click here to read the letters

It's not clear from the documents obtained by Team 10 which dates Tackett was suspended.

But he was on the job as a deputy the day Bertussi claims Tackett tortured him.

Bertussi said he later dropped his lawsuit because the sheriff's department agreed to discipline Tackett over this issue. Team 10 confirmed this in court records.

Today, Bertussi still questions the cruelty he says he saw in Tackett on that sweltering day in May 2003.

"Why'd you do that?" Bertussi said. "Why'd you turn the heater on and leave me in there?"

Tackett quit the department in 2003, and filed a discrimination lawsuit against the county. Tackett claimed he faced racial discrimination at work because he is white, and his superiors were Hispanic. A federal judge threw it out, citing there wasn't enough evidence.

Tackett did not return Team 10's calls for comment on Bertussi's account of that day, but he has previously told Team 10 he has no comment on his service as a deputy.

Meanwhile, Tachiquin's family said Tackett should never have become a federal agent. The family is suing over the September shooting death, while Tackett maintains he fired his weapon in self-defense.

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