Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agents Assault Woman At Checkpoint

swantonSectorAgentsProving itself to be an equal opportunity harasser regardless of what border it operates near, Border Patrol agents stationed near Canada were recently caught on tape illegally detaining, physically assaulting and tasering 21 year old Jessica Cooke near Waddington, New York.  The incident occurred on May 7, 2015 and the agents primarily responsible for the assault can be seen above as well as in the video below:

The victim, Mz. Cooke, was driving home along Route 37 in Northern New York with her puppy when she was stopped & seized at a temporary roadblock erected by Border Patrol agents not actually patrolling the border. Rather, the armed federal agents were interfering with domestic traffic absent individualized suspicion of wrongdoing along an East-West highway several miles South of the international border with Canada. Since Route 37 is a rural highway that connects several local communities in the area and runs East to West, it is not a nexus point for border traffic . Indeed, a review of the video above shows a domestic farm house on the opposite side of the road where the incident took place:


During the initial stop, the female agent apparently ordered Mz. Cooke to open her trunk for a search absent probable cause. The driver refused making it clear she didn’t consent to the intrusion. This in turn prompted the female agent to not only demand Mz. Cooke’s driver’s license but to also order her over to secondary inspection for an extended detention (and a drug dog sniff from a K9 unit that wasn’t present at the time of the incident and had to be called to the scene).

For those of you who live in the Southwest, you’re probably already quite familiar with this particular Border Patrol tactic. See:

The video of the incident picks up at some point after the driver has pulled into secondary inspection per the agent’s demand. The driver can be heard asking the agent what’s going on while demanding that her license be returned to her. The female agent walks over and hands back her license at about the same time the onscene supervisor is walking over as well.

After handing back her license, neither agent asks any questions regarding her citizenship making it clear they were satisfied with her immigration status. This should have marked the end of the detention since the lawful scope of the roadblock is limited to brief immigration-related queries. Indeed, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, at internal roadblocks agents need consent or probable cause to extend the initial stop or to search:

“It is agreed that checkpoint stops are ‘seizures’ within the meaning of the 4th Amendment.” – U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte

“(secondary) Referrals are made for the sole purpose of conducting a routine & limited inquiry into residence status that cannot feasibly be made of every motorist where the traffic is heavy.” U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte

“The 4th Amendment held to forbid Border Patrol officers, in the absence of consent or probable cause, to search private vehicles at traffic checkpoints removed from the border & its functional equivalents, & for this purpose there is no difference between a checkpoint & a roving patrol.” – U.S. V Ortiz

“…We have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified by consent or probable cause to search….& our holding today is limited to the type of stops described in this opinion. -‘[A]ny further detention…must be based on consent or probable cause.’ ” United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 882. None of the defendants in these cases argues that the stopping officers exceeded these limitations.” U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte

Instead of allowing the driver to go on her way however, the agents continued the illegal seizure – going so far as to state that Mz. Cooke could walk away or call a friend to pick her up but that she couldn’t take her vehicle with her. To justify this, the female agent claimed the driver had been acting nervously, something anyone would be when faced with armed government agents seizing you under threat of force absent reasonable suspicion to interrogate you for unknown crimes. Something that’s especially true when the agents are employed by an agency that’s as unaccountable, opaque and out of control as Customs & Border Protection.

The driver protested the extended seizure and things went down hill quickly from there. In short order, the supervisor laid hands on the driver & shoved her to the ground while the female agent pulled out her tazer and used it on the screaming 21 year old woman.

To the folks who live in the Northern part of the country and are experiencing the special brand of  ‘service’ and ‘protection’ offered by the U.S. Border Patrol with Customs & Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security for the first time, let me welcome you to Checkpoint USA


Links to several additional articles associated with this incident are available below:

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