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Border Patrol pursuit policy questioned after East County rollover crash

Border Patrol pursuit policy questioned after East County rollover crash
Posted at 4:38 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 21:18:50-05

PINE VALLEY, Calif. (KGTV) - Immigrant rights advocates are calling for change after a Border Patrol pursuit ended Tuesday night with a rollover crash and 13 people injured south of Pine Valley.

Border patrol agents described it as a ‘failure to yield’ incident. The CHP says that led to a Border Patrol pursuit as a truck took off at a high rate of speed, eventually swerving across all lanes on the I-8, rolling over and tossing 12 people from the bed of the truck.

Four people suffered serious injuries and nine suffered minor injuries. The driver was taken into custody by Border Patrol.

“It's heartbreaking, because I know many of the individuals are people looking for work,” said Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee.

“We’ve seen it time and time again for decades now, where Border Patrol pursues vehicles … where the result is something tragic, and we have another tragedy on our hands.”

In 2017, three people died when an SUV linked to a murder suspect sped away from Border Patrol agents and crashed on I-15 in Rancho Bernardo.

In 2018, three were killed and eight injured when a fleeing truck hit a spike strip on I-8 near Boulevard. In 2019, two men were killed, and one woman was critically injured when a car crashed into a semi-truck in Otay Mesa.

Several years ago, the investigative journalism site, Pro Publica, compiled a three-year list of 500 Border Patrol pursuits in California and three other states and found a third of them ended in crashes.

In 2019, a Border Patrol spokesperson defended their policy, pointing to the importance of targeting smuggling operations.

“The consideration of public safety is a top priority in that pursuit policy,” said spokesperson Justin Castrejon.

In October of this year, the San Diego sector warned of a rise in failure to yield incidents involving suspected human smuggling, some 23 in a month-long span.

Rios believes a pursuit is a wrong tactic.

”There are policing best practices that have determined pursuits are extremely dangerous, including for the safety of the public," said Rios.

"Other police departments have just stopped the practice and it’s time for Border Patrol to do the same."

Rios contends Border Patrol has other options—including air support and surveillance technology—they could call upon instead of pursuits.

ABC 10News reached out to Border Patrol for a response and are waiting to hear back.