Olympian Says Border Patrol Assaulted Him

     LAREDO, Texas (CN) – Border Patrol officers Tasered a Texas Olympian until he passed out and jailed him for hours with no charges, the man claims in court.
     Gregory Springer sued the United States and several Border Patrol agents in Federal Court on May 21.
     Springer helped lead the U.S. row team to a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles before hanging up his oars and becoming a South Texas rancher.
     The complaint includes a picture of a fit mustachioed Springer, wearing his silver medal with his head held high, flanked by Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
     Springer’s Texas roots run deep and his forebears have a history of public service in the state, he says.
     “Springer is a direct descendant of John Hanson, the first president of the Continental Congress, and related to Aaron Burr, the third vice president of the United States. His great-grandfather was a La Salle County judge from 1916 to 1943 who is credited with hiring a young Lyndon B. Johnson as principal of Cotulla High School,” the lawsuit states.
     Springer’s grandfather was a Texas sheriff’s deputy, he adds.
     Springer describes himself as “a patriot in the truest Jeffersonian sense of the word,” “a proud Texas rancher and a respected member of the South Texas community,” who until October 2013 was on good terms with the Border Patrol.
     In fact, Springer says, Customs and Border Protection, the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that includes the Border Patrol, invited him to its Citizens Academy Program before his run-in with its agents.
     During the seven-week program Springer went on boat patrols with the Border Patrol, received firearms training and took classes on drug laws and immigration enforcement.
     “It is through that experience, as well as through interactions with agents trespassing on his property or subjecting him to illegal searches at traffic checkpoints, that Springer became familiar with the callous disregard of some CBP officers for the rights of American citizens,” Springer says in the lawsuit.
     He says he got a taste of the Border Patrol’s overzealous policing upon being stopped at a Laredo checkpoint while towing his boat on Sept. 30, 2013.
     “As he answered one agent’s questions, he noticed another agent illegally reaching into the boat and opening a locker, which had happened on multiple previous occasions,” the complaint states.
     “When Springer complained that his rights were being violated, the offending agent approached the driver’s window and screamed at Springer, ‘I can do whatever I want!'”
     Springer says he made a formal complaint to a Border Patrol supervisor, who acknowledged that the search was illegal. But he says that harassment didn’t compare to what Border Patrol officers put him through two days later.
     He says a Border Patrol agent pulled him over on Oct. 2, 2013 on Interstate 35 as he was taking a friend to the Laredo Airport in his Dodge pickup, though he hadn’t committed any traffic violations and it’s illegal for CBP roving patrol vehicles to stop people for “non-immigration purposes unless the officer has witnessed a federal crime.”
     Springer left his truck to find out why he’d been pulled over, he says, and Agent Rodriguez jumped out of his patrol car with his Taser drawn and threatened to handcuff him. The complaint does not include Rodriguez’s first name.
     Springer says after Rodriguez screamed at him that he was being “verbally resistant” he took his iPhone from his truck and called Richard Flores, the CBP liaison to his ranch.
     Several other CBP officers arrived, Springer says, and he asked if he could speak with someone other than Rodriguez, preferably a supervisor.
     Springer says he walked away from his truck and the noisy freeway and spoke on the phone to Flores, who told Springer he would have another CBP boss call him immediately.
     As Springer waited for the call, he says, Border Patrol agent John Gregory took issue with his “absentmindedly” putting his hand in his shorts pocket.
     “Agent Gregory shouted at Springer to remove his hand. Agent Rodriguez said, ‘You find this amusing, don’t you?’ which gave Springer cause to fear the agent might want Springer to withdraw his hand as a pretense to use force,” the lawsuit states.
     “In fact, as soon as Springer withdrew his hand, Agent Gregory and Agent Rodriguez grabbed Springer’s arm and twisted him around violently.”
     He says Rodriguez then Tasered him to the ground and demanded that he roll over and put his hands behind his back, which was “physically impossible,” with electricity surging through his body.
     Springer says he passed out as his passenger yelled at Rodriguez to stop Tasering him, and Gregory falsely told the other officers that he, Springer, was holding a knife.
     “As Springer regained consciousness, Agent Gregory engaged him in conversation, admitting that he remembered Springer from the Citizens Academy and had, in fact, been his firearms instructor,” the complaint states.
     Springer says that after the Border Patrol officers handcuffed him they took him to a Laredo station for “questioning,” booked him into a cell there and held him for hours.
     “Springer was eventually released, but only after sitting is the cell for hours. He has never been able to get a clear explanation as to why he was seized, Tased, arrested, and detained,” he says.
     Springer seeks punitive damages for “Torture by Taser in Violation of the Laws of Nations,” civil rights violations, assault and battery, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.
     He is represented by Jason Davis with Davis & Santos of San Antonio.
     A Border Patrol spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
     Named defendants are Rodriguez, Gregory, the United States, and CBP officer Does 1-20.

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