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Family Says Border Patrol Went Wild

TUCSON (CN) - Border Patrol agents allegedly investigating a "thrown shovel" descended in force on a family party and beat legal residents for no reason, assaulting women and children and telling their victims they would be deported if they complained, the family claims in Federal Court.

Maria and Ramon Hernandez say they were hosting a family get-together on their land in Douglas, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson, when about 20 agents "entered the yard of the property and threw [Maria, Ramon, and Servando Macario Hernandez] to the ground and beat each of them without provocation or legal justification for several minutes," according to the complaint.

Maria Hernandez's 11-year-old son yelled at the agents to leave his mother alone, and an agent slammed him a car, his mother says.

Family member Castulo Orlando Macario Hernandez ran into the house and agents tried to force their way in with guns drawn. Castulo told the agents there were children in the home, including a 1-year-old, but they filled the home with pepper spray anyway during the December 2007 assault, the family says.

A child called 911, and when Cochise County Sheriff's deputies showed up, the immigration agents were unable to tell them why they were beating the partygoers, the family says.

Later, a supervisor claimed that they were investigating "a thrown shovel." But instead of stopping the beatings, at least one deputy joined, the family says.

Four Hernandezes were taken to Border Patrol headquarters, where agents forced one of them to undress. Two were released after several hours, and two were held until about 4 a.m., then told to walk home, the family says.

"While at the station, [agents] warned each plaintiff that they would be deported should they complain about the Border Patrol misconduct that night," the family says.

Twelve members of the Hernandez family, including several minors, sued the U.S. Border Patrol, Agent Hugh McNamara, unnamed agents and three deputies for civil rights violations, assault, battery, negligence, conspiracy and false arrest.

They seek a jury trial and $7.5 million in damages.

They are represented by Ned Garn of Tucson.

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