Federal prosecutors say that Nogales, Ariz., Border Patrol Agent Matthew Bowen not only used his government vehicle as a weapon against a migrant but he also repeatedly degraded migrants in text messages to colleagues calling them “subhuman” and talking of “frying” Guatemalans with his Taser.
Documents, filed in US District Court in Tucson earlier this month, state that on Dec. 3, 2017, a Guatemalan migrant appeared to have jumped a border fence near the Mariposa Port of Entry. Bowen, age 39, used his Border Patrol vehicle to strike the man twice in the back to prevent him from running away. The victim had to be taken to the hospital for his injuries and was sentenced the next day to 30 days in federal prison for crossing the border illegally.
In May 2018, Bowen was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he deprived 23-year-old Antolin Lopez Aguilar of his civil rights and filed a false report.
Prosecutors are now asking the judge to allow text messages that Bowen sent to a colleague about migrants to be used as evidence in the case, according to The Arizona Daily Star. They said it’s evidence of his “great disdain” for migrants.
‘PLEASE let us take the gloves off Trump!’ – Bowen
Following the incident where he hit Aguilar, Bowen texted to an agent that it was just a “little push” with the bumper. “I wonder how they expect us to apprehend wild a** runners who don’t want to be apprehended,” he wrote.
Prosecutors also included in court documents a text exchange on Dec. 18, 2017, weeks after the incident, in which an unidentified person asked Bowen: “Did you gas his corpse (sic) or just use regular peanut oil while tazing?? For a frying effect.”
Bowen responded, “Guats are best made crispy with an olive oil from their native pais.”
“Guats” is a derogatory term for Guatemalan citizens.
Bowen had most of his text message exchanges with agent Lonnie Ray Swartz — who, in 2012, fatally shot 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez through a border fence.
Swartz said that he shot Rodriguez in “self-defense” after rocks had been thrown across the border at Border Patrol agents. He was acquitted last year of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. The jury wasn’t able to come to a verdict on the lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
In text messages, Bowen refers to the migrants he apprehends as “disgusting subhuman sh** unworthy of being kindling for a fire.”
He once wrote a plead to Trump: “PLEASE let us take the gloves off Trump!”
Bowen referred to undocumented immigrants as “sh**bags” and “f***ing beaners,” among other racist names. He also referenced “tonks,” a derogatory term for border-crossing migrants.
Bowen’s attorney, Sean Chapman, objects to the text messages being used as evidence, as the language used, some of which “could be perceived as racist or offensive,” would not assist the jury in determining “whether he, on this occasion, set out to use excessive force to apprehend the alleged victim,” Chapman wrote.
He told BuzzFeed News that it wasn’t his “intent to suggest that the use of racial slurs were part of agency culture.”
“What I was trying to say is that the term ‘tonk’ is commonly used by agents,” Chapman said in an email.
Bowen has been suspended indefinitely without pay since he was indicted. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of civil rights violations and falsifying records. The trial is expected to begin on Aug. 13.