Border Patrol agents testified in a Texas federal court last week against a fellow officer, their faces creased with anguish, reports the Los Angeles Times. They said agent Jesus Enrique Diaz Jr., a father with seven years on the job, tortured a 16-year-old drug smuggler two years ago by wrenching his handcuffed arms upward as he pressed a knee into his back. In an effort to make the boy say where he had hidden marijuana bundles near the Rio Grande, Diaz also kicked him and dropped him face-first on the ground, agents testified. No one stopped the alleged assault as the 110-pound juvenile screamed, but some agents talked afterward about the “disgust” they felt and reported it. “I knew that what he was doing was wrong,” Agent Gabriel Lerma testified.
The result was a rare prosecution of an agent on civil rights charges, and the latest indication of problems within the agency, which has grown rapidly to become the second-largest U.S. police agency after the New York Police Department. Diaz denies the allegations and the case ended in mistrial because a juror was taking notes in violation of the judge’s instruction. A retrial is planned. Regardless of the outcome, the Border Patrol is grappling with a spate of misconduct cases in its ranks, which have expanded from 4,000 agents in the early 1990s to 21,000. In the last 18 months, five agents have been accused or convicted of sex crimes. An agent is jailed in San Diego on $10-million bail, awaiting trial on attempted murder charges in a hatchet attack that paralyzed a man.