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Border Patrol agents kill tribal member on Tohono O'odham Nation

Border Patrol agents kill tribal member on Tohono O'odham Nation

Man shot at 38 times after reportedly calling BP agents for help with people crossing his property

  • A Border Patrol vehicle near the San Miguel gate, one of a few access points for people to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on the Tohono O'odham Nation.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comA Border Patrol vehicle near the San Miguel gate, one of a few access points for people to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

A member of the Tohono O'odham Nation was shot and killed in front of his home by U.S. Border Patrol agents Thursday night in a village just east of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Around 10 p.m., agents from the Ajo Border Patrol station were assisting members of the Tohono O’odham Police Department when they were involved in a "shooting incident" that resulted in the death of one person, said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection — BP's parent agency.

In a statement, tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. confirmed the man's death Sunday, writing that Tohono O'odham police and the FBI were investigating the death of Raymond Mattia after he was shot and killed near Menager's Dam, a small community about one mile from the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Our hearts go out to his family and all those impacted during this difficult time," Norris said. "As the investigation proceeds, the nation expects full consideration of all related facts of the incident and an appropriate and expeditious response from relevant public safety agencies. Because the investigation is ongoing, we will refrain from making further comment at this time."

Family members told KVOA that Mattia was two feet from his front door when BP agents fired, hitting him approximately 38 times.

The family members, who asked not to be named, said Mattia called BP agents for assistance because multiple people were trespassing through his yard, and he wanted help getting them out of his property, KVOA reported.

CBP Office of Professional Responsibility is also reviewing the incident, Daniels said.

The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector—which covers Arizona's border with Mexico from the Yuma County line to New Mexico—has led the nation in use-of-force incidents with 158 incidents since the 2023 fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2022. Most of these incidents involved vehicles, however, in 20 cases, BP agents in the sector used "less-lethal" weapons, which includes batons, Tasers, and pepper-spray. 

Since October, Border Patrol agents across the southwest border have used force 676 times, including one incident involving the agency's Special Operations Group. This includes 207 incidents involving "less-lethal" weapons. In 13 incidents, agents have used firearms.

While many sectors had only a few incidents, the El Paso Sector, which covers New Mexico and the eponymous border city, had 147 incidents.

This is the third shooting involving a Border Patrol agent in the Tucson Sector since October 2022.

In March, a Border Patrol agent assigned to the Tucson station shot and killed a man following a vehicle pursuit near Highway 286 — which runs from Sasabe, Ariz., to Highway 86 at Three Points.

In a notable first, CBP released body-cam footage of the incident, which showed the viewpoint from the Border Patrol agent who shot and killed Noe Meijia after breaking the driver's-side window and a rear window with his collapsible baton.

It remains unclear whether body-cam footage was captured during the shooting of Mattia, nor whether remote cameras placed near the village took video of the incident.

The agent reached into the vehicle as Mejia attempted to reverse the car. The agent held on, and Mejia attempted to turn the wheel when the agent fired his weapon once, killing him.

The agency did not release the names of Mejia or the agent, however, family members immediately criticized the release of the footage.

A similar incident happened on Feb. 26, when a Tucson Sector BP agent shot and wounded a person on Interstate 19 south of Amado. The agent shot an unnamed person while "investigating a human smuggling event," said John Mennell, a CBP spokesman. The person was injured and transported to a hospital and four other people were taken into custody. Along with CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility and the FBI, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office also responded.

In Arizona's Tucson and Yuma sectors, agents used firearms three times before Thursday's incident, and force in another 194 incidents.

The other incident happened in October just south of the border fence near San Luis on U.S. soil.

Last year, then-CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus announced he would eliminate the agency's Critical Incident Teams, shifting the immediate investigation of fatal and serious incidents from the increasingly-controversial teams to OPR. Magnus, the former chief of the Tucson Police Department, was installed by the Biden administration to help reform the agency. However, last November he resigned after he was told to quit or be fired in an attempt to mollify right-wing critics of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

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