Saturday, September 24, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Border Patrol Blamed for Detainee’s Death

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Border Patrol agents killed a man by pepper spraying him and dousing him with water, knowing the mixture could be fatal, the man's family claims in Federal Court. Two Border Patrol agents pepper-sprayed Thomas Sanchez Orzuna while arresting him in San Clemente on the evening of July 8, 2008, the family says.

The agents, whose names are unknown to the plaintiffs, "used oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, or other unknown chemical agents, against Mr. Sanchez," according to the complaint.

After taking Sanchez to the San Clemente Border Patrol Check Point, the family says, the agents "intentionally used excessive water to decontaminate Mr. Sanchez of the residue of the chemical spray."

Sanchez "began to suffer clearly visible side effects of the spray, including limited breathing, abnormal and/or slow pulse, partial loss of consciousness, disorientation and extreme pain," according to the complaint.

The water exacerbated the effects of the chemicals, "causing Mr. Sanchez to go into cardiopulmonary arrest from which he eventually died," the family says.

Sanchez, who was overweight, had been handcuffed in a "prone position" which allegedly "contributed to his death through positional asphyxia." The family adds that the agents "negligently failed to immediately summon medical care." They say Sanchez also was "unnecessarily hit, struck and otherwise physically attacked."

The family seeks damages, costs and fees for battery, negligence, unreasonable seizure, due process violation and agency liability.

The Sanchezes are represented by Gregory Moreno with Moreno, Becerra & Casillas of Montebello.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.