CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – After driving him to a “desolate area,” a man says, a Border Patrol agent handcuffed and beat him without cause, then held a gun to his head and threatened to kill him unless he admitted being a “coyote,” or alien smuggler. Border Patrol agent Santiago Perez then had him locked up for 8 days and denied him medical care, while pressuring him not to file claims for his beating, Zenon Carrillo Ortiz claims in Federal Court.
Carrillo claims that Border Patrol agents refused to let him call him family while he was locked up, and made him take three lie detector tests in attempts to attack his credibility.
Carrillo says his nightmare began on Sept. 14, 2007, when a sheriff’s deputy pulled him over near Falfurrias. “The deputy searched the truck plaintiff was driving and did not find any weapons, illegal substances or contraband of any kind,” according to the complaint.
Though he had committed no crime – not even a traffic violation – the deputy decided Carrillo “failed to establish to deputy’s satisfaction plaintiff’s right to be present in the U.S.” and called the Border Patrol. Carrillo says Santiago Perez showed up and took him into custody.
Perez handcuffed him, took him to a “desolate area” and “began striking him repeatedly,” causing Carrillo to “fear for his life,” he says.
Then “Perez drew his firearm and held the gun to plaintiff’s head and told plaintiff that defendant planned to kill plaintiff unless plaintiff admitted being a human smuggler or ‘coyote’ that was illegally bringing undocumented immigrants across the Mexican border,” the complaint states. “Despite defendant’s numerous assaults and threats, plaintiff repeatedly denied being a coyote and denied any involvement in human smuggling.
“In response to plaintiff’s denials, defendant Santiago Perez then told plaintiff that he was going to take plaintiff to an abandoned area, where he would shoot and kill plaintiff, so that no one would ever hear from plaintiff again, and no one would know what happened to plaintiff. Defendant Santiago Perez then transported plaintiff to another location. While plaintiff still had his arms handcuffed behind his back, he threw plaintiff onto the ground and again threatened plaintiff’s life.
“Defendant Santiago Perez then pulled plaintiff back up to his feet by pulling on plaintiff’s tied hands and forced plaintiff to walk about 20 feet forward while continually threatening plaintiff with harm.”
After the beatings and death threats, Perez took him to an immigration checkpoint, Carrillo says. Before they arrived, Perez told him “not to say anything about what happened because otherwise he (Santiago Perez) would have to stay late to fill out paperwork and there would be retribution for reporting his actions,” the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Perez ordered Carrillo to tell the other officers that Perez had found him “walking along the highway” and he “had just crossed the U.S. border illegally,” according to the complaint.
Carrillo he refused to do that, and the officers denied him medical care for eight days, and would not let him place a single phone call to his family.
To discredit him, the agents gave him three lie detector tests, Carrillo says.
“Despite clear and convincing proof that Santiago Perez committed the atrocious acts … defendants refused to provide plaintiff necessary medical treatment,” Carrillo says.
Carrillo demands damages from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and from Perez for “physical, psychological and mental injuries,” medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. He is represented by Joseph Corteguera with the Law Office of Domingo Garcia, of Houston.