Investigative News Network members Investigative Newsource, the Texas Observer and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, and PBS’s Need to Know television newsmagazine are publishing and airing stories this week about deaths and alleged abuses of civilians by U.S. Border Patrol agents.
The stories are the result of a months-long collaboration among the newsrooms, which shared documents, reporting and interviews. The multi-platform collaborative project, coordinated by INN, is an ambitious journalistic effort to document allegations of mistreatment and investigate every death involving border agents. Reporters found that the number of fatal incidents is growing even as both assaults on Border Patrol agents and the number of immigrants attempting to cross the border illegally is in decline.
“Need to Know is delighted to be partnering with the Investigative News Network on our investigation into possible abusive behavior by U.S. Border Patrol agents,” said the show’s Executive Producer Marc Rosenwasser. “We hope our collaboration on this project is only the start of an ongoing relationship that will bring important information to the public.”
Stories were produced on multiple platforms – text, television, radio, a news application on the web — and are being distributed through numerous partners, including KPBS and the NBC investigative blog Open Channel. Publication and airing began today and continue through Friday, when Need to Know will air a documentary revealing claims of abuse in detention centers, including massive over- crowding and withholding of food and water.
“It was a pleasure working with Need to Know,” said INN Editorial Director Evelyn Larrubia. “By putting our resources together, we were able to produce more stories and have a bigger impact than we would have had on our own. We hope this important project can serve as a model for future collaborations between our nonprofit members and national public television.”
The articles reveal that Border Patrol agents have killed 14 men and teenaged boys — most in shootings — since 2010. In several cases, the agents said they responded with deadly force because the men threw or attempted to throw rocks at them, the reporters found. Some of the men were alleged to be carrying drugs. One man was shot three times as he attempted to climb a ladder over the fence into Mexico. Another died of heart failure after being repeatedly hit with a stun gun by officers, who encircled him at the border. That case, highlighted by a Need to Know documentary in April, is now the subject of a grand jury investigation.
The Border Patrol has declined to comment on specific cases, but released a statement saying the agency "stresses honor and integrity," and that it "takes every allegation of misconduct seriously and fully cooperates in the investigation of such allegations."
The government has cracked down on Border Patrol agents for corruption; dozens have been prosecuted for allegedly smuggling migrants or drugs, or other charges. But rarely have prosecutors charged agents with improperly using lethal force against migrants and other civilians. In 2007, prosecutors in Arizona charged agent Nicholas W. Corbett with second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide after he allegedly shot a 22-year-old immigrant who was surrendering. Two trials ended the same way: in hung juries.
“Bringing nonprofit journalism organizations together to investigate important issues is essential in this new media environment. Deadly Patrols proved that,” said Lorie Hearn, executive editor and director of Investigative Newsource. “We look forward to more partnerships through the Investigative News Network.”
You can find the stories here:
Evelyn Larrubia can be reached at 818-582-3938, or by email at email@example.com.
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