July 5, 2019

Border Patrol agent with long list of complaints heads to trial in Arizona

Prosecutors said they would introduce evidence Matthew Bowen had injured immigrants in custody on at least four different occasions.

Border Patrol vehicle fence hero A Border Patrol vehicle at the fence on the U.S.-Mexico border near Nogales.
AZPM Staff

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A Border Patrol agent from Southern Arizona will stand trial next month for allegedly running over an undocumented immigrant with his agency vehicle in 2017.

Authorities say after he ran down Antonin Lopez twice with his agency vehicle, Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen texted a co-worker. "Just a little push with a Ford bumper," he wrote, prosecutors say.

Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant, had just jumped the border fence near Nogales, Arizona, when Bowen chased him down with his truck. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona says Bowen struck Lopez twice with his truck.

Before that incident, federal prosecutors say he texted "please let us take the gloves off trump [sic]," referring apparently to President Donald Trump.

Some of those texts, written before the crime, won’t be allowed during trial. Those Bowen sent after the Dec. 3, 2017, incident, will. Bowen is an 11-year veteran of the agency. He was suspended without pay after he was indicted last summer. Prosecutors said last year they would introduce evidence he had injured immigrants in custody on at least four different occasions. In two of those, Bowen’s fellow agents reported him.

Those incidents include:

    January 2012: Occupant of a car Bowen pulls over says he threw the person out of the car to the ground. A complaint was filed.
    March 2015: A fellow Border Patrol agent reports Bowen tackled an immigrant to the ground unnecessarily, busting the person’s lip.
    September 2015: An anonymous fellow agent complains that Bowen boasted about how hard he took down a juvenile.
    October 2015: Immigrant reports Bowen injured him when he slammed the brakes intentionally on an ATV while the immigrant was handcuffed in front.

Following the reported attack on Lopez, Bowen then texted to another agent that he didn't know how fast the acceleration was on the new F-150s, the truck he drove.

Then he texted an agent about his meeting with the Border Patrol union attorney: "He was clear that they could still try to push whatever they want to do but me preemptively putting that report out there will make it difficult to establish that my intent was to do harm."

When another Border Patrol agent asked him how he was doing weeks later, prosecutors say Bowen wrote:

"Yea Im good. Chasing a guat with an f150 and accidentally bumped him at like 7 mph. bc the port guys were watching with their cameras they JICed it bc it looked like I could have run him over from that angle. Guat was totally uninjured didn’t want to allegate or anything. But now it ll prob be an investigation for 2 yrs."

A Tucson Sector spokesperson said Bowen remains on unpaid suspension since June 2018 following the indictment. The spokesperson said the agency did not want to affect the case, and as a result, declined to answer any questions about whether Bowen was already being investigated for the four incidents described by prosecutors where immigrants in his custody were injured.

The spokesperson said agents are held to "the highest standards." Bowen goes to trial a month after ProPublica revealed that potentially thousands of federal immigration agents had festered in a private Facebook group mocking the deaths of migrants. It is not yet known if Bowen was a member of that social media community.

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