Some Border Patrol agents accused of using excessive force

(CBS News) SAN DIEGO - Two brothers, both Border Patrol agents, are going to prison for smuggling more than 500 people into the country illegally. Raul and Fidel Villarreal were sentenced to at least 30 years by a federal judge in San Diego. The judge called their crimes a threat to national security. Meantime, the actions of some other Border Patrol agents are also coming under close scrutiny. .

Deported for shoplifting, Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, a 42-year-old father of five, was caught re-entering the U.S. illegally. Agents say he was violently resisting arrest. He died two days later.
CBS News

The witness video is murky, but in it are flashes - a Taser. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents used a Taser and batons to subdue a man -- his screams captured by another witness.

Deported for shoplifting, Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, a 42-year-old father of five, was caught re-entering the U.S. illegally. Agents say he was violently resisting arrest.

Ashley Young witnessed the arrest and shot the video. "He wasn't moving," she said. "He wasn't resisting. He was just saying, 'Help me.'"

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Hernandez-Rojas died two days later. The coroner said it was from the beating. A federal grand jury is investigating.

The agents say he was resisting; he was crossing the border illegally; meth was found in his system. But critics say agents used excessive force and that Rojas is not an isolated case.

"He asked me to place my hands against a wall," said Chilean businessman Hernan Cuevas, who was crossing the border in 2011 as he had many times. Cuevas had a valid visa and passport -- yet an agent stopped him and searched his car. When he complained, he was strip searched, held for three hours with no charges and no explanation.

"I was appalled," said Cuevas. "These were guys who were definitely acting in total impunity. They believed they were above the law.

From 2004 through 2010, there were 315 complaints of abusive treatment, profiling and other violations by border agents. Nineteen people have been killed by agents in the last two years.

The agency declined an on-camera interview, but issued a statement saying it does not tolerate abuse and fully cooperates with investigations of alleged misconduct. It is reviewing its use of force procedures.

Patrolling the border is dangerous. About 25 agents have died in the line of duty since 2004. But Hernan Cuevas said that's no excuse for the treatment he received.

"Those things happen in banana republics," he said. "In a country that is governed by laws, that should not happen."

The family of Hernandez-Rojas is suing agents involved in his arrest for wrongful death.

  • Bill Whitaker

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