Border Patrol Detains & Harasses TX Soldier; Deletes Cell Phone Video of Incident
by David Bellow on April 3, 2012 at 7:39 AM
A Texas National Guard soldier has filed an official complaint and a freedom of information request regarding an incident where the Border Patrol wrongfully detained him, harassed him, made fun of the National Guard, and even took his cell phone and deleted the video of the incident before setting him free after determining that he had done nothing wrong.
The individual filing the complaint is my brother, James Bellow. He has served with the Border Patrol on the Texas border in the Army National Guard. He completely supports securing the border and completely supports catching drug traffickers as they travel across the border and through Texas. I have written several articles in support of the border patrol and have advocated for more to be done to secure the border. I also wish that President Obama would do more to support the family of the border agent killed by guns in the failed ATF gunrunner program. Obama has gotten involved in the death of Trayvon Martin but he has not said one thing to the family of the border agent killed. So my brother and I completely support the Border Patrol and the border mission. On the other hand, we know that there is a level of professionalism that federal officers are expected to adhere to. What happened to him was in no way professional and possibly illegal due to them deleting video from his cell phone. He called me and told me what happened. I told him to immediately file a complaint and request the video from the checkpoint as evidence.
Below is the Body of the Complaint that was Filed Against the Border Patrol:
On April 2nd, 2012 at approximately 4:10 p.m., as I was passing through the Falfurrias checkpoint (not a border crossing but one of the checkpoints well inside of Texas), Border Patrol agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection directed me to pull over because they said their trained K-9 alerted them to something even though the K-9 had not given any visual or verbal signs. I pulled into the spot that they directed me to and I used my cell phone to record the incident and them searching my vehicle. They did not like that very much at all and I overheard questions like "why is he recording".
I work for a lawn company. I mow yards every day. So when they found some grass blades on my floorboard they told me that they "got me now" and I was "going to be placed under arrest" for marijuana. I told the officers that it was just grass and they told me to be quiet until my rights were read. They told me that they are trained to distinguish the difference between regular grass and marijuana. In this time they took my phone and detained me inside. They tested the grass and of course it came back negative. They let me go but they first erased the entire video of their actions from my personal cell phone.
I am in the Army National Guard and served on the border last year. In the time that I was detained inside, a female agent was insulting me and the National Guard stationed on the border by telling me "so what you wanted to be an agent and couldn't be so you don't like us", "I bet you wanted to be one of us and you couldn't so now you’re mad". I also had a male agent threatening my National Guard future. Saying "I promise you that I'm going to contact your unit and tell them that I don't ever want you working with the border patrol on a mission ever again", "you just wait, I'm going to call them and tell them everything". I was also told that "if I don't like waiting at the checkpoint, then why don't you stay on your side of it." These agents are supposed to be trained to act in a professional manner. I understand they have a job to do, but acting completely unprofessional, antagonizing, and threatening a United States citizen in an unprofessional manner is completely and downright wrong. I am of course going to be mad when I know for a fact that I am a law abiding citizen that serves my country in the military, and then I have people telling me that I'm committing a crime. Making false accusations against me and tampering with my personal belongings is extremely outrageous. It almost seems like they think that they have the right to do whatever they want just because they are federal agents, but I know that federal agents are held to a higher standard of professionalism than this.
They were not very professional in the fact that there were no narcotics in my vehicle but they swore up and down that they were trained to know what it looks and smells like. They mistook grass blades for marijuana.
They were completely unprofessional in the way they treated me and the things they said to me and directed towards the Army National Guard.
They even tried to say I tried to hit an agent with my vehicle as he walked out from behind another vehicle when I was pulling into the spot that they were directing me into.
I was falsely accused of trying to hit an agent, I was falsely accused of having marijuana, I was detained and harassed and insulted in an unprofessional manner while I was detained. Lastly and worst of all, they deleted the video I made of their unprofessional and embarrassing actions while they were searching my vehicle. This was highly unprofessional coming from "trained" United States Federal Agents.
Along with this official complaint that I expect to get a response back from you about, I am also requesting (through the Freedom of Information Act) a copy of the border patrol security cameras from the time that I was there so that I can properly prove my allegations as I take further action to prevent unprofessional conduct like this against American citizens in the future.
*Above personal picture in uniform at an Army event is used in this article for descriptive purposes to show that the Border Patrol did indeed harass a TX soldier and does not imply that the National Guard has endorsed the contents of this article